This narrative is written to those who are familiar with the teachings of Mormonism and uses language common to the LDS experience. The purpose is to suggest new ways to look at the truths of Mormonism. This narrative will focus on the purpose of the church. A central role of the church is to administer the law of the gospel. This narrative is intended to discuss how the church and the law are related and, more importantly, why.
Once a month, LDS gather together for a familiar Mormon ritual called Fast and Testimony Meeting. Devout Mormons are encouraged to come to this meeting in a state of having abstained from eating (fasting) where the money that would have been spent on two meals is donated to the church for assistance of the poor. During this meeting, individuals are encouraged to get up in front of the rest of those present to voice their feelings in a form of bearing a testimony. These testimonies are popularly accompanied with words to the effect that: "I know the church is true..." It's common for those bearing these testimonies to raise their voices slightly to place emphasis on the words 'I KNOW', which is nearly always done in full sincerity and complete belief in the truthfulness of the words spoken.
Are these testimonies accurately spoken? Is the church true? This narrative will submit that these testimonies are spoken accurately and that the church is indeed true, although not in the same way meant by those bearing such testimonies. In fact, all things are true. How could it be any other way? Coming to an understanding of that is one of the reasons this narrative is being written.
This narrative will suggest how these testimonies are perfectly appropriate and profoundly true in their symbolic re-presentation(s), although not very flattering for those who fail to comprehend what is meant. In a sense, we have not erred in bearing these testimonies, yet at the same time we act out foolishly in doing it. The words spoken convey a different meaning than is realized.
What you are reading now are words. Words are symbols. It is by symbolism that humans communicate. But, symbols are many things in addition to words including pictures, objects, histories, and myths. Symbols convey multiple levels of meaning by representation, or rather substitution. Symbols are not the real thing because symbols, by definition, represent something else which they are not. Tokens, names, signs, and symbols are all the same thing by different names. The significance of symbolism is commonly lost on those who live as carnal beings that fail to notice symbol in the first place, much less seek for what is meant by symbol. It is important to remember when proceeding with reading this narrative that the church is an important symbol that points to something else that we are meant to notice, but rarely do.
Narratives by this author often include a disclaimer that these writings come with no claims of being authoritative, accurate, or complete. That is because of what symbols are: Part of the creation which is, by definition, illusion. Once one goes beyond all symbols and fully comprehends what they mean, the reason for this disclaimer will become obvious. You will no longer need symbols because you will have passed beyond them to see them as they truly are. Illusion will be seen for what it is.
Until that happens, however, it may help to discuss symbols that are about us and what they represent. The purpose of these writings is to assist in getting free of the chains that bind us. But, until we start to realize our captivity, we will not seek freedom. Few notice that the symbols that are about us speak clearly of our captivity, but we aren't seeing (perceiving or understanding) them.
Why is there a church in the first place? Differently stated, what is the purpose of the church? How is the church true? What is the purpose of the many commandments (the law) we are given? What is the role of the church in administering the law of the gospel? How does the church fit into the bigger picture of why we are here and what we are doing? What is in store for us in the near future? Before we can begin to see answers, we must begin to see (perceive) what is about us with newer perspectives.
An Illusion of Knowledge
One of the greatest obstacles to learning anything new is living under an illusion of having knowledge. Living under an illusion of having knowledge is intimately related to pride.
There can be no new learning until one is willing to offer up their preconceived notions and false sense of self-righteousness. It is no mistake that the creation parable tells a story of man (symbolized by Adam) Falling under the bondage of illusion by eating (partaking) of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge (of Good and Evil). Good and evil represent a mistaken belief in a reality of opposites which belief carnal and Fallen man consumes (symbolized by eating) unto himself and thereafter lives out. His beliefs become so entrenched within him that he comes under a mistaken (an illusionary) impression that he knows. This, in turn, erects a barrier to hearing anything new. After all, what else is there to learn after one already knows? It causes his heart to become as stone (hard-hearted; incapable of learning new things) rather than living flesh.
As devout Mormons, we are prone to think we are on a righteous path and we sincerely believe that we KNOW (capitals added for emphasis), yet we will not acknowledge that this itself is a definition of pride. We might even stand up and loudly proclaim our knowledge in total denial of any possibility that it can be anything different. We may even harbor anger for anyone who suggests differently. After all, we KNOW, don't we? In a profound way, pride is belief. If pride wasn't a belief system, a form of knowledge, then how could it be? Ultimately, we might come to perceive how we've excelled at pride, or at least in our claim to have knowledge. In believing in illusion, we were never at risk of failure, quite to the contrary, we've excelled. In fact, we've excel so much that we will not consider any possibility that it might be quite the opposite to what we believe or, rather, to what we know.
This, of course, is not without it's own amount of comedy played out in the mirror of creation which perpetually speaks to us in (reflective) parable. But, we are pridefully unaware of what is going on about us. We truly believe that we know, even after we are presented with a story (parable) clearly telling (showing) us (through reflection; symbolism) that we don't know.
As endowed LDS, we are presented in the temple with a parable (of the Fall of Adam and Eve) that tells us that knowledge is the name of the tree from which we eat that keeps us bound by belief in illusion. This same parable (of the Fall) is found in many places in the scriptural record. Temple-centered LDS rightly teach that endowment means knowledge (from God). When the patron of the temple endowment comes to the veil ceremony, he (standing in as Adam) rightly claims that he is looking for "... further light and KNOWLEDGE." It is perfect and appropriate that it is like this. What Adam (the temple patron) fails to realize is that he doesn't need more knowledge, but what he lacks is understanding. Adam (the patron) doesn't understand (comprehend) what he already has or, rather, what already is. The parable being acted out in the endowment ceremony is a perfect reflection of Adam (the patron) and what he is doing (in the Temple this day). The temple to which LDS go, of course, is the wrong one. Ye are the (true) temple. LDS temples and endowments are symbols which carry a message that is relevant to you. As symbols, the LDS temple and it's endowment is not what is important. It is what it re-presents (symbolizes) that is important.
After attending an LDS Temple, patrons might get up in church and testify to everyone else that they (like Adam) fail to understand, or rather, that they (like Adam) have eaten poisoned fruit (from the Tree of Knowledge) and thereby have fallen under an illusion. This, of course, is done using different words (symbols) that mean the same thing. It's done by proclaiming KNOWLEDGE in such places as a Fast and Testimony Meeting. The proclamation (a testimony) commonly includes words like: "I KNOW.... that the church is true... " Well, the church is (true). But, does Adam understand what that means? No. Adam doesn't realize what he is saying. If he did, he wouldn't be foolishly proclaiming his knowledge in the proscribed manner. We will cover what true church means in another section. For the time being, it may help to continue on the topic of knowledge.
As Fallen and carnal men, we foolishly proclaim our knowledge with loud and (often) forceful voices. After all, we saw someone else do it, so it must be right. Again, the proclamation of "having knowledge" is tantamount to proclaiming "I am (like Adam) FALLEN." "I (like Adam) have eaten from the Tree of Knowledge." The great irony is that these people bear true testimonies. Adam, by being infatuated with knowledge, fails to realize that what he lacks isn't knowledge, but understanding. And none can explain that to Adam because he will not listen. After all, Adam sincerely and completely believes he already knows.
The difference between knowledge and understanding is comprehension. In our blindness, can we see how we act out the story of our lives? Isn't knowledge that which caused us to Fall under Illusion? Isn't an illusion of (having) knowledge the greatest obstacle to learning anything new? Absolutely. This is what the symbols tell us, despite our failure to notice. This is like the best of comedies when we attend the (LDS) Temple for endowments and watch how Adam falls under an illusion of having knowledge, then afterwards we go back to church and proclaim our own knowledge. We fail to notice that we foolishly (and perfectly) act out what was shown us in the endowment parable of the Fall of Adam. It seems that we, as fools, are the best comedians and the jokes we play are upon ourselves. The tragedy is that we aren't paying attention enough to laugh at ourselves.
In spite of what's written above, many will still believe they KNOW (per the pattern of devout believers) and that what they know is neither foolish or mistaken. It's all right if this is the case; Please don't get hung up on that at this time. As long as you consider the possibility of new perspectives, then the barrier of knowledge is sufficiently broken to go on. If you yet cannot consider the possibility of having come under an illusion, then it may be best for you to brand these writings as vain imaginations of a foolish man. That would not be wrong to do for you at this time. Our (so-called) errors are for a wise purpose that might not yet be understood.
The main point of the above paragraphs is that it is our own preconceived notions and rigid belief systems (an illusion of knowledge) that comprise the largest and most impenetrable of barriers to comprehending ourselves and what is going on about us. We will need to put aside our preconceived notions in order to come to new perspectives. This is part of what consecration symbolizes. Our belief systems, our knowledge, can be our most prized and valued of possessions that we will need to yield up in the act of consecration. Our material goods are symbols for a true type of consecration which (appropriately) escapes the notice of carnal and Fallen man who imprisons himself with his prideful notions of thinking that he knows (things) when the truth is that he doesn't.
The Joseph Smith Allegory
In order for us to comprehend why we are here and what we are doing, we might need to look at symbols that are about us and what they tell us. Yes, symbols are about us, not merely surrounding us, though symbols surround us too. There is no intention to use this time for a general discussion of noticing symbols . The importance of noticing symbols is covered in other narratives by this author. In the following paragraphs, we will briefly look at an allegory embodied in the familiar Joseph Smith story. In many ways, the Joseph Smith story (a parable) is redundant with what is represented in the parable of the Fall of Adam (the creation parable).
Some who are new to noticing scriptural parables will at first fail to notice that they (parables, allegory, and metaphor) are also a part of our everyday experience. God's word, so to speak, is much bigger and greater than what is contained in the scriptural record. In truth, everything we experience in this world is symbolic. One of the barriers to noticing parable as being a part of our everyday experience is a belief in chance happenings. To understand, we will first need to comprehend that infinite intelligence is in all and through all. In everyday living, there are no chance occurrences and there are no accidents. This means that we can look for symbolic parable in places where we formerly didn't realize they existed.
Here, we will begin to look at the symbolism in the (his)story of Joseph Smith and the rise of the church. This parable carries several layers of meaning, but one of the higher ways to understand it is as a repeat of the familiar Garden parable of Adam and Eve. Here we go again, back to the creation story. That's because the creation story contains nearly all of the keys to understanding what is going on and answers why. There is a reason for that, but it is not important to cover it at this point in time.
It should be familiar to most that the Garden parable recounts how Adam and Eve were in the Garden (presence of God), but were cast out (into The Lone and Dreary World) after eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge (of Good and Evil). Other narratives by this author discuss how this Garden allegory (creation story) can be understood as a profound parable that is relevant to each of us individually in the present time and place. If you have not already read these other narratives, it might be helpful to read: "New Perspectives of the Book of Mormon" (which is meant to accompany this narrative) and other narratives contained in "Temple Book II: Narratives on a meaning beyond the LDS endowment" (a compilation of narratives about symbolism in the LDS temple endowment).
With that said, we can look with new perspectives of the story of Joseph Smith and the restoration of the church. For the sake of simplicity, we will use the widely accepted version of the Joseph Smith story which is partly myth, but that doesn't matter to our discussion. We might first notice how the Joseph Smith story is redundant in its symbolism with the Garden Parable of the Fall of Adam (and Eve). Briefly, the popular version of the Joseph Smith story has it that Joseph Smith Jr was a youth that wanted to know truth, so he went into a grove of trees in New York State and asked God. After being accosted by a dark presence, Smith was visited by God in the form of the Christ and the Father who answered his question of which church to join with the reply to join none of them. Later, Smith received a set of golden plates which were an ancient record buried in a nearby hill (Cumorah) which he translated into what is known today as the Book of Mormon. The same year as the Book of Mormon was published, Smith and five others organized a church which was named the Church of Christ and later took other names including Church of the Latter-day Saints and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Smith and company moved westward from New York to Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois before he (Smith) was killed by a mob in Illinois in 1844. Before his death, Smith brought forth 'translations' of Egyptian papyri that later became a book of LDS scripture called the Pearl of Great Price. Joseph Smith's other revelations were compiled into a Book of Commandments (1833), later revised and named the Doctrine and Covenants (1835). These, along with the Book of Mormon, comprise what is called the standard works of the church.
Let's first look at the beginning of the Joseph Smith allegory. It might be noticed how the symbols of a grove (Joseph Smith story) and a Garden (creation parable) embody similar meanings. Among Joseph's first experiences is a description of being accosted by a dark presence. In the Garden parable, Adam and Eve, having forgotten all, are first met by Lucifer. Joseph is in the grove, visited by God. Adam and Eve are in the Garden visited by the same.
Before going on with more symbol comparisons, it may be good to stop and pose a question. One of the questions that might be asked about the Joseph Smith story is how one goes upward after a coming of God (Christ)?
Devout Mormons are prone to adhere to a popularly-held perspective of the Joseph Smith story that is believed first as a factual history. The story is also seen in a very progressive way, that of starting at the bottom and gradually being added upon until one reaches the top. Devout Mormons tend to view the church today as a product of an upwards and onwards progression of being gradually added upon since the time of Joseph Smith. This view is connected to a mistaken notion of the meaning of the phrase "line upon line, precept upon precept" (cf. Isaiah 28:10-13) which is more relevant to redundancy in symbolism (it's about many signs; many witnesses) rather than placing one block on the top of another in a climb upwards per the popular notion. Here it is important to notice that progression is popularly viewed by devout Mormons as an incremental event where one gets more and more until one has a lot. Stated differently, one climbs upward and onward until one gets to the top. And don't forget, friends, to endure to the end. Enduring to the end is also a phrase that is widely mistaken as to what it means. At the end is death. End and death are synonymous terms. In a profound way, that is exactly what we do: We endure (under illusion) unto our deaths.
It should be noticed that the story of Adam in the creation parable is popularly viewed by devout Mormons in the same mistaken fashion (as a story of incremental progression) as the Joseph Smith story. Differently stated, the story of Adam is popularly viewed as being a record of starting at the bottom and working ones way upward to (spiritual) success. It should be clear that this view is backwards. That is, we have it backwards in thinking that scriptural stories are progressive rather than regressive. Adam and Eve started at the top and Fell. They went down, not up. Going down is what the word 'Fall' symbolizes. It is the same with Israel (Jacob) and the story of the twelve tribes who were carried away captive and lost. Symbols of tribe, captive, and lost convey regressive ideas. The story of Jacob and the twelve tribes is not about succeeding spiritually, but the opposite. The parable of Israel repeats the same themes as that of the Fall of Adam and the Joseph Smith story.
Let’s now turn back to the question posed in the third paragraph above about how Joseph Smith could have gone anywhere but down after meeting Christ in the grove? In all gospel symbolism, it is coming to the Christ that is the mark, the culminating experience that makes us whole (holy) again. Finding Christ is the fulfilling experience, not the opposite. Unfortunately, we carnal beings in our travel downward into captivity seem to get things backwards. Fortunately, the parables that are about us tell us this in simple symbolism that a child can decode. As with the story of Adam and Israel (Jacob), the Joseph Smith story comprises a parable recounting the Fall into illusion, separation, tribalism, and becoming (spiritually) lost.
Thus, the Joseph Smith story and the restoration of the church is, in essence, a re-presentation of an archetypal parable, that of the Fall. Re-presentations of this parable is also found in a variety of other scriptural allegories such as Noah and the Flood, Lehi and company leaving Jerusalem, and the Jaredites coming to the promised land. We will cover these last two allegories in a subsequent narrative. Here, we need to stay with the subject of why there is a church and a law and how these are intimately tied into the Joseph Smith story.
After Joseph Smith emerged from the grove, he went on to receive the golden plates that were hidden in the Hill Cumorah. The symbolism of the golden plates being buried in a hill is intimately relevant to each of us as individuals who are the way down, not up. These symbols, again, convey messages to us through reflective symbolism. The messages being conveyed carry a twofold message, one that is very unflattering (in regard to what we are doing) and one of great promise (of what we can be).
Here, the Hill Cumorah is a symbol of the individual being with the golden plates being a symbol of what's hidden within us in much the same way as the parable of the pearl of great price given by Jesus (cf. Matthew 13:45-46) or the parable of the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon (see narrative titled 'New Perspectives of the Book of Mormon'). The golden plates are said to be 'translated' by Joseph Smith which is relevant to each of us in the same way. Each of us finds the truth hidden (or buried; symbolized by the golden plates) within ourselves (symbolized by the Hill) which is redundantly symbolized by an idea that we as individuals (symbolized by Joseph Smith) 'translate' what is in us (again symbolized by the golden plates). And, like the scriptures, we too are true(thful) as far as we are translated correctly. There is much more here, but it is not essential to cover it at this time.
After bringing forth the Book of Mormon (which is a symbol for Smith failing to bring forth the truth within himself), the church was organized. What was the reason for organizing the church? We will cover that separately below, but the short answer is because of the failure of Joseph Smith and company to understand what all of this was about.
After the coming of the church, a Book of Commandments is published. This book of commandments is reminiscent to the law brought down from the mount by Moses and given to the children of Israel because they were worshiping a golden calf. Carnal commandments are a cornerstone of the preparatory gospel and a sign thereof. The preparatory gospel of carnal commandments are always given to those who are Fallen or, rather, spiritually dead. These who are spiritually dead, of course, symbolize us. We will cover the preparatory gospel in the next section.
It is important to remember that carnal and Fallen man mistakenly looks outwardly for what he already has within and thereby Falls into (spiritual) death. This idea is symbolized by the brutal death of Joseph Smith in 1844. Physical death is a symbol of it's counterpart, spiritual death, the only one that is important, though both are illusory. There are multiple meanings here. Joseph Smith's death, like that of Adam, is an allegory of the (spiritual) death of all men as well as the promise of our own eventual escape from Babylon. This last (and only true) promise is conveyed in the (implied) symbol of resurrection (being redeemed from spiritual death) that is meant for all.
Appropriately, devout LDS tend to worship Joseph Smith or, at least, reverence his name. It is no accident of history that Joseph Smith is a common name like John Doe. The symbol of Joseph Smith's name conveys a mistaken reverence of man by carnal man and reminds us that Joseph Smith was no more than the rest of us. A worship of Joseph Smith is sometimes denied by devout Mormons, but it may help to recall the words of Mormon hymns like "Praise to the Man" (referring to praising Joseph Smith) or "We thank thee Oh God for a Prophet" (in reference to reverencing the current Church President). Both of these hymns are reverently (yet foolishly) sang by those who are Fallen and not yet redeemed. Being Fallen is why there is need for a prophet in the first place. It might be noticed that the King James Old Testament closes with the words "End of the Prophets". This is another symbol. The Children of Israel needed prophets because they were living a preparatory gospel. The new Testament begins with the coming of Jesus (representing Christ) that fulfills the law (of the gospel). These are all symbols in perfect order that redundantly convey the same ideas. These symbols are profound when applied to each of us as individuals.
Some might notice that the church migrated from where it was organized in 1830 (New York State) westward, to a final destination in Salt Lake City, Utah. East is a symbol for that which is Spiritual and West is a symbol for that which is material. The migration of the church from East to West is symbolic of a descending journey into materialism. It is also no accident that the church resides near the Great Salt Lake which is noticeably similar to the Dead Sea nearby to Jerusalem, the claimed ancestral city of Israel. Sea is a common symbol for peoples. In the case of the Dead Sea, the symbolism conveys the (co-)existence of a (spiritually) dead people (Israel). This idea is re-presented in the symbolism of the Great Salt Lake (a dead sea) and Mormonism. If this insults your ego, please try not to let it do so. This is what the symbols say.
This same type of symbolism might be noticed in the recently-built LDS Assembly Hall in Salt Lake City that is mostly underground with part of the upper structure above ground in the fashion of an iceberg. Devout LDS will be familiar with this building which is where bi-annual conferences are held. The upper portion of the Assembly Hall is built of steel-reinforced concrete (as is the lower portion) and it (the upper structure that is above ground) is faced with a thin (two inch) layer of natural granite, creating a beautiful appearance. In terms of symbolism, being below the ground is symbolic of death, referring to spiritual death. Concrete is man-made stone as opposed to God-made stone (granite) which symbolizes the church being man-made. Remember that the granite on the Assembly Hall comprises a thin layer over concrete. The thin layer of granite symbolizes the appearance of being God-made (although it is really a structure of concrete) symbolizing that the appearance is not the reality. These symbols are not only about the church, but about each of us individually. How often do we wrongly judge others by appearances? How about judging ourselves by appearances? There are other levels of meaning that are present too. The iceberg type of symbolism with part visible and part invisible, for example, conveys the same ideas as a sealed portion of the Book of Mormon. Each of us, as individuals, contain a hidden portion within that is of great value (like a Pearl of Great Price hidden in a field). Yet at the same time, this part of carnal and fallen man exists as a dark and hollow tomb in which he is lies dead. After all, Adam is Fallen. As carnal and Fallen beings, we are spiritually dead. These are ideas conveyed by the symbolism that is about us.
The Preparatory Gospel
Here, it might be important to discuss the preparatory gospel which is a gospel of law. The preparatory gospel is given to those who are spiritually dead. The preparatory gospel was first given to Adam (after the Fall), but it's emergence is most visible in the story of the Children of Israel being led out of Egypt. In understanding how the church is true, it is important to understand the purpose of the preparatory gospel, how it is recognized, and who is given administration of it.
The book of Mormon contains a couple of scriptural passages that might be worth looking at in regard to the purpose of the preparatory gospel. One passage is in Mosiah 13:26-32, where it is explained that a (strict) law of "performances and ordinances" is given to a "stiffnecked (prideful) people to keep them in remembrance of God and their duty towards him." Because this refers to the children of Israel, we tend to (mistakenly) think that it doesn't apply to us, but the true message of the Book of Mormon is about us personally. The children of Israel are a symbol (of us). And what we read about what went on in the Book of Mormon is really about what is going on.
A second important passage is found in Jacob 4:14 where it is explained that the Jews "despised the words of plainness" (the truth within them)... and sought for things they could not understand (ie. they searched for knowledge rather than understanding)... and looked beyond the mark (understanding which comes through Christ; the words of plainness)... therefore it was delivered unto them... things which they cannot understand, ... that they may stumble." The Jews (symbolizing us) were (are) given the preparatory gospel which will frustrate them (us) into humility (that we may stumble).
There are several important things to notice here. One is that the preparatory gospel is not given because there is a step-wise progression onwards and upwards, but as a result of a Fall backwards. The preparatory gospel leads nowhere except (spiritual) death (that they may stumble). The second point is related to that. It is that the preparatory gospel works it magic through frustration rather than success. Ultimately, those who are prideful become frustrated (compelled to be humble) at the failure of the preparatory gospel to deliver back what it promises. Salvation does not come by the law that we so devoutly believe in. We eventually give it up, our illusions of knowledge (pride) which so perfectly bound us down by (belief in an) illusion. Unfortunately for many of us, knowledge becomes our most prized of possessions. Giving up knowledge (prized possession) is part of the symbolism of consecration in which knowledge is placed upon the alter (of the Temple) in true sacrifice. It is worth remembering here that what we lack is not knowledge, but understanding.
Thus, the purpose of the preparatory gospel is frustration. Yet at the same time, it (the preparatory gospel contains a great promise in it's symbols (types of things to come; Mosiah 13:31). Mosiah rightly points out that salvation does not come by the law (despite our belief that it does), but by what is represented by it. Do any of us need baptism, repentance and a remission of sins to be saved? Sure, because that the essence of the preparatory gospel. But, some day we will give it up (our knowledge) and thereafter see (perceive; understand) what it really means. Then we will have be-come like a child who needs no baptism, nor repentance, nor remission of sins which things are reserved for those who don't understand.
The preparatory gospel can be recognized by the presence of a strict "law of performances and ordinances" (cf. Mosiah 13:30) which is a "gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal (outward; literal; written) commandments" (cf. D&C 84:27). What devout Mormons need to admit is how accurately these words describe life in the church today. There's a commandment for about everything, even down to what one shall (not) eat or drink. Devout LDS live busy lives. Much of this business derives from demands placed upon devout believers by the church itself. Hopefully, those who have seen this will start making the connection of their burden with the preparatory gospel of carnal commandments which functions to strictly proscribe about everything we are to do in everyday living. The preparatory gospel is meant to be a harsh master. If it wasn't, we would never find sufficient frustration and would stay there forever.
The purpose of the preparatory gospel and how one recognizes it is briefly discussed above. Now we need to turn to discussing who administers the preparatory gospel. In brief, it is the same ones who are benefited by it, the (spiritually) dead. Devout Mormons often speak of the gospel being restored. Yes, it was. But, do these realize it is the preparatory gospel being spoken of? There is only one gospel and one church. This is it. The preparatory gospel is both administered by and received by those who are in a position to benefit the most. One might say that the gospel is perfect (and true) in how it fulfills its purpose.
As Jesus so eloquently spoke in the New Testament, (follow the Christ and) let the dead bury the dead (cf. Matt 8:22). In symbolism this tells us that the (spiritually) dead do the work for the (spiritually) dead. At a great risk of insulting devout Mormons, I am suggesting to you that the leaders of the church are as (spiritually) dead as their followers and this is spelled out in all of the symbolism that is about the church.
It might be noticed that dead burying the dead is exactly what occurs in the basement of the LDS Temples. The word bury is similar to the word baptism. Paul eloquently states that we are "buried... by baptism unto death" (cf. Rom 6:4). Who is it who performs these baptisms? Who authorizes them? It is those who are (spiritually) dead (those living the laws and performances of the preparatory gospel). In one of the great ironies of life, those who do baptisms for the dead in LDS Temple baptismal fonts are exactly that... dead burying the dead. It might also be noticed that devout Mormons call performances of such ordinances: work for the dead. A shorter version of the phrase 'work for the dead' is, appropriately, 'dead works'.
The purpose of the preparatory gospel is fulfilled with the coming of Christ. After one experiences the return (well, it's really our return... the return of the prodigal son) of the Christ (who is come already), then the preparatory gospel no longer has a purpose. This is part of the symbolism of scriptures being comprised of an Old Testament (preparatory gospel) and a New Testament (coming of Christ). It should be noted that Jesus taught new perspectives to the Old Testament laws. In the same fashion, the Book of Mormon contains portions reminiscent of the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament portion is from 1Nephi up to the beginning of 3Nephi. Until then, the Book of Mormon characters (yes, including Nephi) lived the law (preparatory gospel) that was brought forth from Jerusalem by Lehi and company.
This symbolism is continued with what is written in the New Testament about Jesus (an archetypal Christ). In the New Testament, Jesus is called the "last High Priest". In the Old Testament, the High Priest was the proverbial top dog of the preparatory gospel pyramid. It is no different today with the restored (preparatory) gospel where the High Priest is a supreme ruler in the LDS church organization. The symbol of Jesus being the last (or final) High Priest symbolizes the fulfilling of what the preparatory gospel is about and that there is no longer a need for service of a High Priest (administrator of the preparatory gospel). Stated a different way, after Jesus there are no more High Priests to enter the Temple on behalf of the people because Jesus was the last (only) High Priest (who enters the true Temple, which Temple ye are).
In the next section, we will continue discussing the idea of the preparatory gospel, but we will shift to focusing on another (redundant) embodiment of it: The church. From there, we will try to put the pieces together to create a wider and newer perspective that may help to make more sense of why there is a church in the first place.
The Restoration of the Church
What is the purpose of the church? One of the ironic things about Mormonism is that the purpose of the church is recorded in plain language in the standard works of the church, but it seems that few understand what is being communicated. It may be worthwhile to take a look and it's quite brief. Here, let's take a look at D&C 22 which comprises four short verses that explain why there is a church. In particular, take a close look at verse number three of section 22 (which is boldfaced and underlined for emphasis):
"(1) Behold, I say unto you that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing; and this is a new and an everlasting covenant even that which was from the beginning. (2) Wherefore, although a man should be baptized an hundred times it availeth him nothing, for you cannot enter in at the strait gate by the law of Moses, neither by your dead works. (3) For it is because of your dead works that I have caused this last covenant and this church to be built up unto me, even as in days of old. (4) Wherefore, enter ye in at the gate, as I have commanded, and seek not to counsel your God. Amen."
History tells us that Joseph Smith and company were questioning a need for a re-baptism to enter the newly organized church. The answer seems to clearly say that a church was given as a result of (their reliance on) dead works (ie. not understanding what that means). Baptism, as it is spoken of here, is a dunking in water which is and always been a dead work that is part of the preparatory gospel (Law of Moses). In asking the question of whether there was a need for this type of baptism, the reply to Smith and company was in the form of "You are missing the point." The preparatory gospel is supposed to be done away (verse 1) with the coming of a new and everlasting covenant (which is synonymous with the coming of Christ). It should be clear from verse two that baptism, per the form of the familiar ordinance, is useless and meaningless. Baptism is a (ritual) symbol for something else that is meaningful. In getting hung up on the symbol, Joseph Smith and company were showing their failure to understand what is meant. Because of their reliance on dead works (eg. baptism) the (preparatory) church (which administers a preparatory gospel) was restored (verse 3: as in days of old).
What Joseph Smith and company should have been doing, but were not doing, is (verse 4) entering in at the gate (symbol for Christ). As is usual for carnal and Fallen man, it seems that Smith and company thought they knew enough to ask a right question (about baptism). It becomes evident that they, however, missed the mark so totally and completely that they asked a question that bespoke their failure (to understand). Based on what is said in the headings added to D&C section 22, the current leaders of the church do not understand what baptism is about either. This, however, is in perfect order for those who are immersed in illusion (buried in death), which is, as it should be. It is perfect and appropriate that the leaders of the preparatory gospel do not understand any more than those whom they lead. Let (allow) the dead (spiritually dead) bury (baptize; administer symbolic performances and ordinances to) the (spiritually) dead.
This section (D&C 22) was part of the original Book of Commandments that preceded the modern D&C. What is the purpose of a Book of Commandments? Our precious egos make it hard for us to admit that the purpose of a Book of Commandments is for a book of laws that comprise what might be referred to as containing the "Law of Joseph Smith" in much the same fashion as the first five books of the Old Testament contain what we commonly call the "Law of Moses." The Law of Moses was brought down from the mount to be given to a carnal people found worshiping a golden calf (beast). The Law of Joseph Smith is the modern counterpart of the same.
We should not miss the most important part of D&C 22. The most important part is that the words are meant to be relevant to each of us, here and now, rather than another people in different time and place. Joseph Smith and company are symbols for us. It is we, those who say we believe the D&C, who are the ones who fail to understand what is meant by baptism. It is we who fail to comprehend the new and everlasting covenant. It is we who foolishly practice dead works and are thereby given the (preparatory) church that we proclaim is "true", yet we don't comprehend how truthfully we speak.
Newer Perspectives and Finding Meaning
As devout Mormons, we tend to believe in dogmatic doctrines, obey a legion of laws, practice outward ordinances, and busy ourselves with numerous callings, meetings, and services in the church organization. Living a devout LDS life is a conscripted and a busy existence. It's perfectly appropriate that it's like this. Everything is in perfect order. What we fail to realize is why.
In living a preparatory gospel, we tend to mistakenly believe that we are saved by doing all that we can do first. Afterwards, grace steps in to complete the process, or so we believe. Despite our mistaken notions that we claim to know are true, salvation does not come by any of the works that we so earnestly busy ourselves doing. Like Adam, we do not enter the Garden from which we were cast because of a failure in having sufficient knowledge, but because we fail to understand. We not only fail to see (perceive) what we are about, but we fail to understand why.
The familiar Joseph Smith story is an allegory that we are meant to notice. The Joseph Smith allegory comprises a parable about what went on with the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the restoration of the church as well as what is going on now, for they are the same thing. The meaning behind the Joseph Smith story is redundant with the creation parable that describes the Fall of Adam (and Eve) into believing an illusion which comes from partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. These symbols tell us who we are and what we are doing.
In proclaiming that the church is true, we bear correctly-spoken testimonies. The purpose of the church is to administer the restored (preparatory) gospel which is a gospel of outward performances, strict laws, and carnal commandments given to a spiritually lost people who fail in understanding of what it is about. In bearing these testimonies of the truth of the gospel, there is a universal failure to understand what we, ourselves, are saying. In doing so, we truthfully proclaim that we, like Adam, are entrapped in an illusion of our own choice and making. Like Adam, we mistakenly believe that getting more knowledge will lead us to salvation, but quite the contrary, gaining knowledge leads away from it.
Contrary to our most preciously-held notions, the road ahead of us is not an onwards and upwards path in which we are added upon incretementally until we get it all. The path ahead is preceded with yielding up what we most value by placing it upon the altar in true sacrifice. What many of us value the most, even more than our material goods, is our rigid belief system which we appropriately call knowledge. If devout LDS are asked what they value the most, most will reply that what is most valuable to them is their testimony of the gospel. The road ahead will be preceded by giving up these testimonies. Eventually, we will come to understand what testimony means. We will come to comprehend that our testimonies are signs, symbols, and tokens, just like the gospel, the church, baptism, and much more. All of these are signs (symbols) that point to the same thing, the very thing that we devout Mormons are missing.
Some who are in the beginning stages of finding out the true nature of the church and the leaders thereof, become bitter towards the church because of a feeling of having been cheated. Try to realize that all things are in order and always have been. A part of our purpose in coming here was to experience what it means to fall under illusion so completely that we will be oblivious to what happened. We might say that we've all excelled in that. If anyone has been cheated, then it is we who have cheated ourselves. The high church leaders are as oblivious to living under an illusion as is the rank-and-file church membership. That is what the symbols tell us.
This narrative might be mistaken as an attempt to draw people away from 'safe-harbor' of Mormonism, the church, and the gospel. One of the messages that I am trying to convey is how these are perfect, needed, and appropriate. If you believe the gospel and the church dispense salvation, then it is advisable for you to stay where you are. Alternatively, if you think you should leave the church because of what you've read in this narrative, then please consider that you too, might be missing the point of it all. When and if it ever comes a time for you to leave, you will not need to study about it nor read narratives such as this one. It's because you will understand (comprehend) what's not written in this narrative, nor can it be written. Narratives such as this one is a symbol. And symbols cannot substitute for the real thing.
And that is what it's all about: finding that newer perspective. Discovering newer perspectives will eventually lead to finding meaning. What many are prone to miss by infatuating themselves with symbol is that meaning already exists. Meaning preexisted the creation and exists right now. In finding newer perspectives, we come to comprehend what already is, but what we didn't before perceive.
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"for any portion of the human family to be assimilated into their likeness is to be saved" (Lectures on Faith 7:16).
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Thank you!clarkkent14 wrote: ↑Sun Sep 10, 2017 9:15 pmhttp://www.ldsendowment.com/perspectives_church.htm
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