WHAT CHURCH DO YOU BELONG TO?
Labels Control Thought
Labels or titles are very powerful. Because of stereotypes and ad hominem, labels can trigger immediate emotional responses which can cause us to draw false conclusions without ever actually seeking to conduct our own study or investigation. Labels can cultivate, or hinder, thought. Labeling and categorizing people and things is a tactic used to control the masses and manipulate their beliefs. The media, government, and politicians uses this tactic to satisfy their agendas. Label someone as a racist, a corrupt Mormon politician, a secret Muslim terrorist, a socialist, or a criminal, and everyone will immediately join the bandwagon in hating that person without ever searching out the facts for themselves.
Churches use this tactic of labeling to correlate the beliefs of its members. The most notable example was the Catholic’s “Index Librorum Prohibitorum”, which was a list of publications deemed heretical, anti-clerical or lascivious, and was therefore banned. Label someone or something as an apostate, categorize them as being and sinner, heretical, and deceived, and people will immediate dismiss anything that person has to say without ever entertaining or considering what their message is. Rejecting someone’s message because of their preconceived label or status in society is very damning. Likewise, accepting someone’s message solely because of the position or rank they hold in society is also very dangerous. If this is how you approach truth, by making assumptions based on how your society esteems the messenger, instead of looking at the message and judging its content for yourself, then you would have been no better than the Pharisees during the time of Jesus Christ and you would have taken part in judging falsely and crucifying the Savior of the world.
“And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.”(1 Nephi 19:9)
Humans perceive up to 80% of all impressions by means of our eyes. We rely on the use our eyes to observe and judge what is in front of us. So if we ground our judgement strictly based upon how someone appears, or the position they may hold in society, or what others have labeled them as, we could be judging wickedly.
“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”(Matthew 6:22–23)
Our eyes, or how we perceive the world around us, can be easily deceived. Chances are your eye is evil. Therefore, you should not rely on what you first perceive with your sight to judge. Because although “how someone looks is the first message they deliver”, you should never judge a book by its cover. Jesus Christ was a carpenter, there was no beauty that we should desire of Him, for he was despised and rejected of men, and men esteemed Him not. (Isaiah 53:2-3) John the Baptist dressed in camel hair and lived off of locust and wild honey. (Matt 3:4) Isaiah walked around preaching butt-naked for three years. (Isaiah 20:2-3)
Looks can be deceptive, especially when our darkened eyes are not accustomed to comprehend light. So Instead attaching preconceived labels to a person, we need to first LISTEN for the voice of the Lord in their message.
“Hearken and listen to the voice of him who is from all eternity to all eternity, the Great I Am, even Jesus Christ—The light and the life of the world; a light which shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not; The same which came in the meridian of time unto mine own, and mine own received me not”(Doctrine and Covenants 39:1–3)
Two Types of Excommunication
Churches excommunicate dissenters, cast them out of the synagogues, and label them “apostates”; however, God does not always approve of the excommunications performed by religious authorities.
There are two types of excommunication we see throughout the scriptures and history. The first is justifiable in the sight of God. That is when one goes about preaching against the principles of the gospel, or the Doctrine of Christ, which Nephi explained is faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and seeking the face of Christ while in the flesh. (see 2nd Nephi 31-32) Denying Jesus Christ and preaching against His doctrine is apostasy. God justifies excommunication in this case. Sherem in Jacob 7 and Korihor in Alma 30 preached that there is no Christ. By the LDS “ONLINE PUBLIC” definition of apostasy, Sherem and Korihor were guilty of apostasy. Here is that definition from LDS.org:
“When individuals or groups of people turn away from the principles of the gospel, they are in a state of apostasy.”
The second form of excommunication is a false type of excommunication and is not justifiable in the sight of our Lord. This form of excommunication is known throughout the scriptures as “stoning of the prophets”. True messengers from God have always been mistakenly labeled as “apostates” by religious authorities and the wicked people. Joseph Smith said the following about mistaking true prophets as “apostates”.
The world always mistook false prophets for true ones, and those that were sent of God, they considered to be false prophets and hence they killed, stoned, punished and imprisoned the true prophets, and these had to hide themselves "in deserts and dens, and caves of the earth,"(Hebrews 11:38) and though the most honorable men of the earth, they banished them from their society as vagabonds, whilst they cherished, honored and supported knaves, vagabonds, hypocrites, impostors, and the basest of men.(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith pg 205) see also Helaman 13:26–28
The blood of the saints and the prophets whom we reject will cry out from the ground, and will be answered in vengeance by the Lord. (2nd Ne26:3,28:10,Alma 37:30,3rdNe9:5-11). That is why we must take very careful heed when we judge others and dismiss them as “apostates”. We could be very well casting out a true messenger from God. This was the case for the prophet Abinadi.
Excommunication Trail of Abinadi
“And it came to pass that after the space of two years that Abinadi came among them in disguise, that they knew him not, and began to prophesy among them, saying: Thus has the Lord commanded me, saying—Abinadi, go and prophesy unto this my people, for they have hardened their hearts against my words; they have repented not of their evil doings; therefore, I will visit them in my anger, yea, in my fierce anger will I visit them in their iniquities and abominations.”(Mosiah 12:1)
Abinadi is being asked by the Lord to prophesy unto the people, but did the people accept him as a prophet? Was he ordained and called by the church to be a prophet? He has to come among the people in disguise. Abinadi is not part of the church hierarchy, he is not a priest of King Noah, he is coming from outside the established religious organization. If Abinadi came to us today preaching repentance, would we accept the message, or reject him, because he is not a recognized church authority?
“And it came to pass that they were angry with him; and they took him and carried him bound before the king, and said unto the king: Behold, we have brought a man before thee who has prophesied evil concerning thy people, and saith that God will destroy them. And he also prophesieth evil concerning thy life, and saith that thy life shall be as a garment in a furnace of fire. And again, he saith that thou shalt be as a stalk, even as a dry stalk of the field, which is run over by the beasts and trodden under foot. And again, he saith thou shalt be as the blossoms of a thistle, which, when it is fully ripe, if the wind bloweth, it is driven forth upon the face of the land. And he pretendeth the Lord hath spoken it. And he saith all this shall come upon thee except thou repent, and this because of thine iniquities.(Mosiah 12:9–12)
Adinadi was brought before THE church authority, King Noah, to be questioned and tried. What was Abinadi’s crime? It was for being critical and speaking the ugly truth about their “beloved” king, the supreme authority over the land and people. If Abinadi came to us today and was preaching hard things against church organizations and said critical things about its leaders, would we automatically label him as a prideful false teacher preaching false doctrine?
“And now, O king, what great evil hast thou done, or what great sins have thy people committed, that we should be condemned of God or judged of this man? And now, O king, behold, we are guiltless, and thou, O king, hast not sinned; therefore, this man has lied concerning you, and he has prophesied in vain. And behold, we are strong, we shall not come into bondage, or be taken captive by our enemies; yea, and thou hast prospered in the land, and thou shalt also prosper.”(Mosiah 12:13–15)
If some random messenger like Abinadi came among us today testifying of our wickedness and corruption, how would we most likely respond? Would we not say things like, “What great sins could we have possibly committed to be judged of this man? There is no way we could be condemned because we are righteous! We are righteous because we belong to the true church! We know our church is true because our leaders hast not sinned! They can’t sin because they have “keys” which make them infallible and therefore they cannot lead us astray! This apostate has lied and is deceived! We are a strong international church with billions in assets and land and buildings, and no ‘unhallowed’ hand can stop the work! Nothing—not anything, not anyone, not any influence—will keep this Church from fulfilling its mission! We shall not come into bondage because we are the “fail-safe”! We have prospered! Just look at our 150+ temples and 3,231 stakes. With over 74,000 missionaries we will continue to prosper!”
The people of king Noah were prosperous indeed, but prosperity and wealth are not the fruits of a true church. They had built many elegant and spacious buildings, towers, a temple, a conference center, and owned a lot of real estate, (Mosiah 11:8-16) similar to what you can find in the Vatican City or Salt Lake City.
“And they began to question him, that they might cross him, that thereby they might have wherewith to accuse him; but he answered them boldly, and withstood all their questions, yea, to their astonishment; for he did withstand them in all their questions, and did confound them in all their words. And it came to pass that one of them said unto him: What meaneth the words which are written, and which have been taught by our fathers, saying: How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings; that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good; that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth;”(Mosiah 12:19–21)
After the priest realize they could not accuse Abinadi for erring in scriptures or doctrine they quote Isaiah 52:7-10 assuming this scripture applies to them. They seem to be saying, “The scriptures say our feet are beautiful upon the mountain, we publish peace and bringeth good tidings! You make very mean and critical statements while we say nice, encouraging, and uplifting things. You’re being so contentious! We are the Lord’s chosen elect people of Zion! This scripture says so!!”
False teachers always convolute the “pretty/happy” scriptures to inflate their roles and justify the corruption they commit in their office.
Abinadi has the perfect response.
“And now Abinadi said unto them: Are you priests, and pretend to teach this people, and to understand the spirit of prophesying, and yet desire to know of me what these things mean? I say unto you, wo be unto you for perverting the ways of the Lord! For if ye understand these things ye have not taught them; therefore, ye have perverted the ways of the Lord. Ye have not applied your hearts to understanding; therefore, ye have not been wise. Therefore, what teach ye this people?”(Mosiah 12:25–27)
The Idolatry of the Priests
“And they said: We teach the law of Moses. And again he said unto them: If ye teach the law of Moses why do ye not keep it? Why do ye set your hearts upon riches? Why do ye commit whoredoms and spend your strength with harlots, yea, and cause this people to commit sin, that the Lord has cause to send me to prophesy against this people, yea, even a great evil against this people?”
These priest, like the Pharisees, were striving to live to the letter of the Law of Moses, but because they did not understand it they could not fully keep the spirit, or purpose, of the law. (Mosiah 13:30) They maintained an outward appearance of righteousness by checking off their list of rituals and ceremonies but their inward hearts were filthy. (Matt 23:26).
But how can someone live the outward ordinances such as temple worship while committing whoredoms and spending time with harlots? Let’s define whoredom and harlot with the Webster’s 1828 dictionary – the vocabulary that the Prophet Joseph would have employed as he translated the meanings of the words written in the Book of Mormon:
Harlot: In Scripture, one who forsakes the true God and worships idols.
Whoredome: In Scripture, idolatry; the desertion of the worship of the true God, for the worship of idols.
So what is idolatry? It is “Excessive attachment or veneration for anything, or that which borders on adoration.”
With these clarified definitions, committing whoredoms, chasing after harlots, and practicing idolatry is not so easy to detect as going out and having immoral sexual relations and sacrificing goats to statues.
Idols are anything that get in between you and your relationship with God, which includes having excessive attachment and veneration for church leaders. Committing whoredomes is devoting your time, thought, energy, adoration, loyalty, and obedience to those idols. Spending your strength with harlots is seeking to please those who have already forsaken God for idolatry; the world and its money.
Is it possible that members and leaders in your church, like the priest in King Noah’s court, are able to maintain a checklist of temple ordinances, appearing on the outside to be righteous while they speak vain and flattering words to you (Mosiah11:7) - all while they set hearts upon riches, committing whoredomes, and spending their strength with harlots?
Abinadi the “Apostate”
Abinadi continues his sermon till chapter 17, preaching and quoting the word of God and the Law of Moses which testified of their wickedness. Abinadi was charged with apostasy, but for what crime? He simply quoted the word of God? Can one be charged with apostasy for quoting the word of God from the scriptures? I know of a church which many like to consider an “apostate” church – which excommunicated their members for quoting scriptures. Read Martin Luther’s remarks in his excommunication trial:
“Since then your sere Majesty and your Lordships seek a simple answer, I will give it in this manner, neither horned nor toothed. Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen." (Martin Luther, Luther's Works, 33: Career of the Reformer III)
Interesting how Abinadi was also given the option to be set free from the charges of apostasy and excommunication.
“And he said unto him: Abinadi, we have found an accusation against thee, and thou art worthy of death. or thou hast said that God himself should come down among the children of men; and now, for this cause thou shalt be put to death unless thou wilt recall all the words which thou hast spoken evil concerning me and my people.”
King Noah is telling Abinadi, “Gratify my pride, submit to my authority, stop acting in opposition to your leaders, it doesn’t matter if what you said may be true or not, it’s not faith promoting in me. If it doesn’t fall in line with us it is apostasy. Deny all you said or suffer the full extent of my power!” However, Abinadi holds true his testimony and refuses, like Martin Luther, to recant anything, and is then scourged to death with faggots. (Mosiah 17:9-13)
Interestingly enough, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints actual “secret” definition of apostasy, the definition which differs from the public definition posted on their website but is found in their Handbook of Instruction for leaders is:
“Repeatedly act in clear, open and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders. Persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after they have been corrected by their bishop or a higher authority. Continue to follow the teachings of apostate sects (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishop or a higher authority. Formally join another church and advocate its teachings.” (Handbook 1: 2010.)
According to this definition of apostasy, King Noah is justified in what he did. According to this definition of apostasy, Abinadi would be excommunicated if he came among us today and testified of our wickedness. John the Baptist would be excommunicated if he preached repentance and baptism to us. Any prophet in the scriptures, including the dispensation head Joseph Smith, would be excommunicated and charged for apostasy in our day. If the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, returned, He would be rejected by those who so boldly use his name as their Church Corporation trademark.
God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing. (Mormon 9:9) He follows His patterns. When a group of religious people become wicked and in pride of their hearts stray from the commandments of God, He has always called individuals outside of the religious hierarchy ranks to call the people to repentance through remembering and returning to Christ. These messengers are almost always rejected. True messenger will never say, “Come, follow me!” They will only point others to the Lord Jesus. Since my Lord has called me back to America, I have heard these messengers. There are modern day Abinadis among us. When you are presented with a message of faith and repentance in Jesus Christ, be very careful not to dismiss their message by labeling a saint as an apostate. Be very careful not to judge what is good and of God to be of the devil.
“Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil. For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night. For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.18 And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged. Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ.”(Moroni 7:14–19)