LDS Podcast 4:
The Bread Crumbs of Apostasy
Hello again. Welcome to yet another podcast here on foreverLDS. I can't tell you how honored it is to have this podcast—thus forum—to express to you the thoughts in my head and the passions in my heart. I love this Gospel. I love this Church. Is it corny to admit that? Sure! But I don't care. No interest whatsoever in being politically correct or trying to shape my message so that it doesn't offend anyone. If my beliefs offend you, don't listen. When I was researching what other LDS podcasters are doing out there I saw plenty of podcasts from Latter-day Saints or former Latter-day Saints that want to discuss every possible topic of contention and controversy surrounding our Church and really, that might apply to all organized religions, particularly Christian religions. It was obvious many wanted to sow the seeds of doubt when it comes to faith that a true Church might exist on the face of the earth. I have no interest in that. There's not many things in this life that I know. Just a meager few. And one of them is that there is a true Church. Fortunately, I don't have to back that up or prove. Ah, but I do have one precious advantage that I can claim. Most wouldn't even think to resort to such an advantage. It's not fair. Just plain not fair. But I'll resort to it anyway, and that's the fact that it's a basic tenet of this Church that you can know the same exact things that I know. You just gotta ask. It's all there in Moroni 10:3-5 and other places. The answers come. They come. And they do not fade, unless we deliberately allow them to fade.
As Latter-day Saints we are list makers. We like to make lists. And often in Sunday School or Priesthood and maybe in Relief Society (I don't go to as many of those) we might be asked any spiritual question from "How can I make my home a heaven on Earth?" to "How can I prepare to receive a Patriarchal Blessing?" to "How can I strengthen my testimony while living away from my family?" and the list will inevitably include all of the Gospel Basics that define us as Latter-day Saints. Prayer. Fasting. Attending your meetings. Attending the Temple. Paying your tithing. Personal Scripture Study. I have no doubt that most of us in this room could come up with about 20 items that seem to end up on virtually all of these lists.
The trouble is that sometimes we can read such a list and it doesn't sink in anymore. We stop seeing it. It becomes a cliché. We can recite the answers verbatim. And when that happens, it's fairly common, that it coincides that we abandon that list of basics that was once so firmly entrenched in our lives. As Christians we practice these Gospel basics as a shield and a defense. Some people don't understand that principle. I know in my own life when things are going haywire and nothing seems to be working out and contention and animosity seem to be taking over, I can often attribute this to a "lowering of the standard", a decreasing propensity to live Gospel basics. So I just retrench. Repent, really. And things get better. Nothing about this is logical, by the way. It's just that when we live Gospel basics the Holy Ghost is allowed--allowed--to play a more vital role in our lives. And when the Holy Ghost is present in our lives, it's not as if all of the things that are causing the problems change. Our personalities don't change. We still possess the same flaws. Everyone around us still has the same flaws. Our challenges often don't go away. Sometimes they may even get more complicated. But they just don't seem to matter as much. Or they don't seem to be as much of a stumbling block. They don't seem to make us as unhappy. Or feel as out of control.
Long term failure to practice Gospel basics inevitably leads to a loss of the Spirit, and a loss of the Spirit gives the Adversary an opening. The armor suddenly has a chink. And suddenly our common enemy has license to mess with our heads, and in the worst cases this can lead to personal apostasy. This principle is the same today as it has been throughout the history of the world.
And Jesus said, Whom do men say that I am?
And his disciples answered and said, Some say you are John the Baptist returned from the dead; others say Elias, or other of the old prophets.
And Jesus answered and said, But whom do ye say that I am?
Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Logos, existing in the Father as His rationality and then, by an act of His will, being generated, in consideration of the various functions by which God is related to his creation, but only on the fact that Scripture speaks of a Father, and a Son, and a Holy Spirit, each member of the Trinity being coequal with every other member, and each acting inseparably with and interpenetrating every other member, with only an economic subordination within God, but causing no division which would make the substance no longer simple."
And Jesus answering, said, "What?"
Thank goodness that’s not the way Matthew 16:16 actually reads, but those are the exact words that Christian leaders created to try and define God and Jesus Christ during the 3rd Century AD, after the apostasy was already in full swing and the different sects were desperate to try and unify all of their opposing beliefs. Even today this definition of the Trinity is accepted and taught by many Christian faiths, despite the fact that it makes no living sense whatsoever. In fact, it’s precisely because of the fact that it makes no sense that all of the Bishops of the day—from Rome, and Constantinople, and Antioch, and Alexandria, and elsewhere, were able to sign their name to it and canonize it as doctrine. I guess it’s much easier to accept something like that than the simple, pure idea that God the Father and Jesus Christ are real, separate beings with glorified bodies of flesh and bone—a father and a son, with the same basic relationship as any other human father and son. Yet all of this was learned in a single bright—very bright—instant by the Prophet Joseph Smith when he entered that sacred grove in 1820.
So how did the early Church after the death of Christ forget such a simple doctrine as the bodily resurrection of the Savior when the scriptures seem to make it so plain, especially at the end of the Gospel of Luke when Christ ate a broiled fish and a honeycomb as a specific visual example so he could show the apostles that He was still a real person, even in His resurrected, glorified state? Well, we could talk for a long time about the Christian Church in the First Century and shortly thereafter and how they taught and believed so many of the same doctrines that we teach and understand today. We could show how they had doctrines such as the preexistence and baptism by immersion and for the dead and the laying on of hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost and how Mary was viewed as the mother of Jesus and not a deity to be worshipped, and how the basic Church organization existed then much the same as today—and in fact I'm sure that will be a fun podcast or a fun series of podcasts for the future. And yet, it wouldn't matter. By the time we got done reading from all the ancient, apocryphal, Gnostic, and Dead Sea manuscripts and compared them to texts from a few centuries later to analyze how things changed little by little and inch by inch, you wouldn't have any more advantage in discerning the facts than ever did. The adversary can teach you the same facts, with a different spin, and believe me, he does. In a very convincing way, if all you had to judge by was the art of persuasion.
You have something different. A totally different method of discernment. You have the Holy Ghost. Or let's hope you do. And if you don't, the formula for getting it back is pretty straightforward. Repent! Sometimes I wish it wasn't that straightforward. I wish there was some other route, some other way. However intricate. However convoluted. Unfortunately, there isn't.
So what I’d rather do is talk about how apostasy comes about in the first place, because that principle applies very closely to all of us, and it relates to Gospel basics. It’s something we all need to think about constantly, or as the Savior tells us 3rd Nephi 15, “watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and led away captive by him.”
Yes, we can all feel a great sense of comfort that the Gospel of the Living Messiah has been restored and the truth can now be found upon the earth, but don’t ever think you are invincible, invulnerable to personal apostasy. The process works slowly. Gospel basics start to fall by the wayside, funny little ideas start to creep into our hearts, we start to teach these things to others as if they’re actual doctrine, we start to emphasize things that cause us to neglect the things that are most important, we become angry when others don’t seem to understand what we’re trying to say, rather than remaining humble and teachable, and if we’re not careful we move to some small Utah town and run a “Wives Wanted” ad in the newspaper.
Okay, actually, I think in most cases apostasy can be a little more subtle. But at the root of this apostasy we will generally discover that someone who has stopped practicing the daily obligations of a Latter-day Saint. Sometimes this happens because of outright laziness. But usually it is because of evil actions un-repented of.
We're just about to re-enter an election season here in this country. It may be one of the most important elections in our history. We hear that every election cycle of course, but this time, it may actually be true. And already we've heard a lot of mudslinging and backbiting and attempts to dig up dirt on the other candidate and call into question the opposing candidate’s character. It seems to me that the energy one exerts to dig up dirt reveals more about the character of the dirt digger than the person they're trying to smear. So why is character such a critical issue when choosing an elected leader? I mean, there's gotta be more important things than personal character, right? Isn’t it true that a person’s ability to lead and inspire and bring about change has nothing to do with how that person acts or the individual choices they make in their personal life?
Moroni 7:10 tells us: “Wherefore, a man being evil cannot do that which is good; neither will he give a good gift.” There are so many other scriptures which confirm this same idea, that an unrighteous man—meaning, to my understanding, a man who does evil and does not repent—cannot do good things.”
Why is that? It’s my opinion that not so very many years ago the people of America deliberately, knowingly elected for their president a man who they knew had committed sinful acts in his personal life, and by all accounts continued many of those actions in the White House. Yet the argument that we kept hearing was that despite all of that he was still a good president, a good leader, and accomplished many good things, and besides, those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, right? Wrong. We do have a right to expect our leaders to be better than those around us, and hopefully better than ourselves.
“A man being evil, cannot do that which is good.” That's a blunt scripture. Isn't there some give on that? Can't a person be rotten to the core but still donate to charity or help a little old lady across the street? I think this scripture is referring to something cumulative. Something overarching. Something that, in the end, utterly dwarfs all other indices that might be included in the final calculation.
The Nephites during certain periods of their history understood this principle to its core. As it tells us in 3 Nephi 3:19: “Now it was the custom among all the Nephites to appoint for their chief captains, (save it were in their times of wickedness)(and maybe that’s the frightening key) some one that had the aspirit of revelation and also prophecy; therefore, this Gidgiddoni was a great prophet among them, as also was the chief judge.” (whose name was Lachoneus.) The Nephites of this generation understood perfectly without anyone having to dance around the argument that a leader had to be a righteous man, otherwise—what would happen?
Perhaps the reason a man who is evil cannot do that which is good is because in order to do good a person must always have the light of Christ, or the Holy Ghost to guide them. Without either of these eternal forces, other forces, other voices, and other ideas can creep into their minds, and they ultimately make decisions inspired by those other voices. Keep in mind that the object of the Adversary is ALWAYS destruction, pain, misery, and unhappiness. So don't ever allow the notion to settle in your head that its naive to support someone just because they're good or righteous people. That should probably be the most critical gauge that you use before casting your vote. In fact, I’m terrified by the idea of voting for someone because he--or she!--is a good speaker, or personable or friendly or attractive, or a great debater or a great persuader, or has a great personality, or is highly intelligent. Because, according to the scriptures, a leader who is wicked at the core cannot do good. Their policies will become twisted, they make the wrong decisions at the most pivotal moment, in a crunch, and they can literally bring about the downfall of a nation.
So if all this is true of a leader, isn't it also true of us? In most instances when someone becomes deceived or strays from the Gospel, it can generally be attributed to bad actions or choices that have never been taken care of. Things for which we have not properly repented. I realize every tale of apostasy is unique and only God ever knows the full story. Still, it’s my belief that all of us who are members of the Church have within us an insurance policy that will prevent us from being deceived no matter how unlearned or untalented or unintelligent we feel we are. That insurance policy is the gift of the Holy Ghost. And all we gotta do is keep paying the premium, which is living the Gospel basics, and the most important of those basics is repentance, coming forth every week, probably every day, maybe several TIMES a day, with a broken heart and contrite spirit. The Holy Ghost speaks us all with the same voice. And it's very hard to define. We've all heard "burning in the bosom", "a warm feeling," "The still, small voice." I think the fact that it's so hard to define--so abstract in our human language--is deliberate. It transcends human language. It's deeper. And for those who have experienced it, it's also undeniable.
In another podcast I repeated the argument some make that in order to really understand truth you have to read and study and knock yourself out with books and talks and higher degrees of learning. Nothing wrong with reading. Hey, I make my living as an author. Please, keep reading! Despite this, I’m not one who thinks the best information—the most practical knowledge—comes from books. Only from hands-on experience. Otherwise, instead of coming to mortality, we'd have all just taken a class on how to inherit the Celestial Kingdom and it would've never been necessary to separate ourselves from the presence of God.
An adequate book has never been written on how to be a parent. Gotta learn by on the job training, and even then, it can be an incredible challenge to get it right. The influences of the world can be overwhelming. They can destroy your children. They can destroy you.
There's only one way to avoid apostasy in our personal lives and continue on the path of progression that will lead to eternal glory in the celestial kingdom. By obedience to God and His commandments. You already knew that, right? Oh, we all seem to know it intellectually. It's spiritually where the principle can slip. And we're most vulnerable when we let up on the daily practice of gospel basics. It always comes back to that list. Personal and family prayer, regular temple attendance, doing our hometeaching and visiting teaching, daily scripture study—personally and as a family, and regular service in the Kingdom--going out of our way to comfort those who stand in need of comfort.
I hope all of us can allow these things to become more deeply entrenched in our understanding. Commit and recommit and then commit again to practice the Gospel basics. I don't care what trials you're facing right now. I don't care how awful it is, except that I do know that things can get pretty awful, the whole point of living the basics of the Gospel is that we will be happier. Burdens will be easier to bear. Solutions will present themselves. Sometimes nothing will change—at least on the surface—but for some inexplicable reason, without any explanation whatsoever, our confidence increases. We start to accept and believe that "We can make it." We can endure to the end. And that's what it's all about. Oh, how I am beleaguered by that commandment! No commandment is more challenging, more taxing, or more rewarding. Enduring to the end.
I know this podcast isn't a talk for Sacrament Meeting or Sunday School, but I still feel like I should dedicate these messages to Christ and offer them His Holy name. Perhaps this one a little more than others. Normally I'll reserve closing my podcasts that way because there's no authority--no keys--associated with these podcasts. It's just me. Just a sincere desire to share my love of the Savior and His Gospel. I pray I'll never compromise that objective. And I pray that God will bless the lives of everybody listening—and those who aren't listening—immeasurably. You're gonna make it. Hold to the Rod, and you will make it. May the voices that resound otherwise, be silenced. Stay close to the Lord and stand in holy places. This is Chris Heimerdinger. Good night.