Friday, October 23, 2009

Prophetic quotations about signs of personal apostasy

You will ask why I have included all of the following quotations. Reading them from the Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and Joseph F. Smith manuals brought me to my senses more than a year and a half ago when I was on the road to apostasy. Like a two-edged sword, they cut all my rationalizations and arguments asunder, and they showed me my faults in all their hideous hues. I’m collecting them all together in hopes that it can do someone else good in the same way it did me good. Repentance was a difficult multi-stage process, but through the grace of God I was snatched out of the serpent’s mouth, and I thank the Lord for His infinite mercy.

So, without further ado..
What is that which turns people away from this Church? Very trifling affairs are generally the commencement of their divergence from the right path. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p79)
I give a loud amen to that. Trouble is it doesn’t really seem trifling when you’re in it; rather, it feels like the heavens and the earth are going to rend asunder. Only after it is all resolved in faithfulness is it seen in its proper perspective.

Pride
…if they became unpopular, if their interest or dignity was touched, or if they were detected in their iniquity, they were always the first to raise the hand of persecution, to calumniate [make false charges about] and vilify their brethren, and to seek the downfall and destruction of their friends. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p332)
You hear many say, “I am a Latter-day Saint, and I never will apostatize;” “I am a Latter-day Saint, and shall be to the day of my death.” I never make such declarations, and never shall. I think I have learned that of myself I have no power…. But when I am left to myself, I have no power, and my wisdom is foolishness; then I cling close to the Lord, and I have power in his name. I think I have learned the Gospel so as to know, that in and of myself I am nothing. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p80)
Men begin to apostatize by taking to themselves strength, by hearkening to the whisperings of the enemy who leads them astray little by little, until they gather to themselves that which they call the wisdom of man; then they begin to depart from God, and their minds become confused. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p81-82)
Pride and religious hobbies
At other times people who pride themselves on their strict observance of the rules and ordinances and ceremonies of the Church are led astray by false spirits, who exercise an influence so imitative of that which proceeds from a Divine source that even these persons, who think they are “the very elect,” find it difficult to discern the essential difference [Matthew 24:24]. Satan himself has transformed himself to be apparently “an angel of light” [2 Corinthians 11:14; 2 Nephi 9:9]. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, pp116-7)
[Religious] hobbies give to those who encourage them a false aspect of the gospel of the Redeemer; they distort and place out of harmony its principles and teachings….Every principle and practice revealed from God is essential to man’s salvation, and to place any one of them unduly in front, hiding and dimming all others is unwise and dangerous…. Such a view, no matter to what point directed, narrows the vision, weakens the spiritual perception, and darkens the mind, the result of which is that the person thus afflicted with this perversity and contraction of mental vision places himself in a position to be tempted of the evil one, or… to misjudge his brethren and give way to the spirit of apostasy. He is not square before the Lord. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p118)
We have noticed this difficulty: that Saints with hobbies are prone to judge and condemn their brethren and sisters who are not so zealous in the one particular direction of their pet theory as they are. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p118)
…the man with a hobby is apt to assume an “I am holier than thou” position, to feel puffed up and conceited, and to look with distrust, if with no severer feeling, on his brethren and sisters who do not so perfectly live that one particular law. This feeling hurts his fellow-servants and offends the Lord. “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”—(Prov. 16:18.) (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, pp118-9)
We all have our strengths, and so it is sometimes hard to tell whether they have become a religious hobby or not. I think some of the things from the above paragraphs are pretty good indications. In short, if consideration of a particular strength of yours causes any of the following, be careful:
  • A feeling of being extra extra extra proud of yourself when you consider a particular strength. (puffed up, conceited)
  • An attitude of “I am holier than you because I do this more than you”
  • Distrusting other saints who you perceive are not as strong in the area of your strength
  • Judging and condemning other saints who are not as strong in the area of your strength
Ambition
They had used that priesthood to attempt to build themselves up and to perform some other work besides the building up of the kingdom of God. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p319)
Many imbibe [conceive] the idea that they are capable of leading out in teaching principles that never have been taught. They are not aware that the moment they give way to this hallucination the Devil has power over them to lead them onto unholy ground; though this is a lesson which they ought to have learned long ago, yet it is one that was learned by but few in the days of Joseph. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p81)
…realize that no man, no individual, no clique, and no secret organization can combine with force and power sufficient to overturn the purposes of the Almighty, or to change the course of His work. Many and many an individual has arisen in times past, and these individuals have been falsely impressed with the idea that they were going to work a wonderful reformation in the Church; they anticipated that in a very short time the whole people would desert their standard, the standard of truth to which they had gathered and around which they had rallied from the beginning of the Church until then. These persons thought the people would follow the “new shepherds,” but the people of God know the voice of the true shepherd, and the stranger’s voice they will not heed, nor the counsels of him who assumes authority that does not belong to him. None such will they ever follow. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p114)
It is in consequence of aspiring men that Kirtland has been forsaken. How frequently has your humble servant been envied in his office by such characters, who endeavored to raise themselves to power at his expense, and seeing it impossible to do so, resorted to foul slander and abuse, and other means to effect his overthrow. Such characters have ever been the first to cry out against the Presidency, and publish their faults and foibles to the four winds of heaven. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p320)
Deceptive spiritual manifestations
When visions, dreams, tongues, prophecy, impressions or any extraordinary gift or inspiration conveys something out of harmony with the accepted revelations of the Church or contrary to the decisions of its constituted authorities, Latter-day Saints may know that it is not of God, no matter how plausible it may appear. Also they should understand that directions for the guidance of the Church will come, by revelation, through the head. All faithful members are entitled to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for themselves, their families, and for those over whom they are appointed and ordained to preside. But anything at discord with that which comes from God through the head of the Church is not to be received as authoritative or reliable. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p117)
Self-righteousness and finding fault with others
When a man begins to find fault, inquiring in regard to this, that, and the other, saying, “Does this or that look as though the Lord dictated it?” you may know that that person has more or less of the spirit of apostasy. Every man in this Kingdom, or upon the face of the earth, who is seeking with all his heart to save himself, has as much to do as he can conveniently attend to, without calling in question that which does not belong to him. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, pp80-1)
That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p318)
I hope that even in Kirtland there are some who do not make a man an offender for a word. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p320)
Contention
No man gets power from God to raise disturbance in any Branch of the Church. Such power is obtained from an evil source. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p81)
Losing confidence in leaders
If the Saints in Kirtland deem me unworthy of their prayers when they assemble together, and neglect to bear me up at the throne of heavenly grace, it is a strong and convincing proof to me that they have not the Spirit of God. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p319)
If there are any uncharitable feelings, any lack of confidence, then pride, arrogance and envy will soon be manifested; confusion must inevitably prevail, and the authorities of the Church set at naught. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p319)
…the very step of apostasy commenced with losing confidence in the leaders of this church and kingdom, and that whenever you discerned that spirit you might know that it would lead the possessor of it on the road to apostasy. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p318)
One of the first steps to apostasy is to find fault with your Bishop; and when that is done, unless repented of a second step is soon taken, and by and by the person is cut off from the Church, and that is the end of it. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p81)
Whenever there is a disposition manifested in any of the members of this Church to question the right of the President of the whole Church to direct in all things, you see manifested evidences of apostasy—of a spirit which, if encouraged, will lead to a separation from the Church and to final destruction; wherever there is a disposition to operate against any legally appointed officer of this Kingdom, no matter in what capacity he is called to act, if persisted in, it will be followed by the same results; they will “walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed; they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities [see 2 Peter 2:10]” (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p80)
People do, however, leave this Church, but they leave it because they get into darkness, and the very day they conclude that there should be a democratic vote, or in other words, that we should have two candidates for the presiding Priesthood in the midst of the Latter-day Saints, they conclude to be apostates. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p81)
Losing confidence in the church
Why do people apostatize? You know we are on the “Old Ship Zion.” We are in the midst of the ocean. A storm comes on, and, as sailors say, she labors very hard. “I am not going to stay here,” says one; “I don’t believe this is the ‘Ship Zion.’ ” “But we are in the midst of the ocean.” “I don’t care, I am not going to stay here.” Off goes the coat, and he jumps overboard. Will he not be drowned? Yes. So with those who leave this Church. It is the “Old Ship Zion,” let us stay in it. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, pp82-3)
There is a certain progression that we can detect in the above signs. Frequently it begins with pride—pride as manifested by complacency, pride in one’s faithfulness and zeal particularly in some area where one has a gospel hobby. Frequently, having someone else suggest that one is carrying a principle to excess can trigger anger and defensiveness. This leads to attack mode and attempting to find fault with the other’s judgment. If the chastisement comes from priesthood leadership, it can lead to hurt feelings, anger. It becomes hard to submit. It becomes easy to contend and gossip. This leads to questioning the leader’s judgment and thinking that they are not inspired and believing that they are committing the sin of unrighteous dominion. This leads to questioning the authority of those who called them to that position, which can lead to disaffection with the whole church for allowing the leader to operate as they are doing.

Disbelief
Some men there will be who would limit the power of God to the power of men, and we have some of these among us and they have been among our school teachers. They would have you disbelieve the inspired accounts of the Scriptures, that the winds and the waves are subject to the power of God; and believe the claim of the Savior to cast out devils, raise the dead, or perform miraculous things, such as cleansing the leper, is only a myth. They would make you believe that God and his Son Jesus Christ did not appear in person to Joseph Smith, that this was simply a myth, but we know better; the testimony of the Spirit has testified that this is the truth. And I say, beware of men who come to you with heresies that things come by laws of nature of themselves, and that God is without power. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p115)
Neglect of duty and breaking the commandments
…no person ever apostatized, without actual transgression. Omission of duty leads to commission. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p80)
The moment you permit yourselves to lay aside any duty that God calls you to perform, to gratify your own desires; the moment you permit yourselves to become careless, you lay a foundation for apostasy. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p318)
…any man, any elder in this Church and kingdom, who pursued a course whereby he would ignore or, in other words, refuse to obey any known law or commandment or duty—whenever a man did this, neglected any duty God required at his hand in attending meetings, filling missions, or obeying counsel, he laid a foundation to lead him to apostasy and this was the reason those men had fallen. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p319)
If the Saints neglect to pray, and violate the day that is set apart for the worship of God, they will lose his Spirit. If a man shall suffer himself to be overcome with anger, and curse and swear, taking the name of the Deity in vain, he cannot retain the Holy Spirit. In short, if a man shall do anything which he knows to be wrong, and repenteth not, he cannot enjoy the Holy Spirit, but will walk in darkness and ultimately deny the faith. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p79)
When men lose the spirit of the work in which we are engaged, they become infidel in their feelings. They say that they do not know whether the Bible is true, whether the Book of Mormon is true, nor about new revelations, nor whether there is a God or not. When they lose the spirit of this work, they lose the knowledge of the things of God in time and in eternity; all is lost to them. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p81)
…at different periods there have been manifestations from delusive spirits to members of the Church. Sometimes these have come to men and women who because of transgression became easy prey to the Arch-Deceiver. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p116)
Notice the progression that occurs in the above paragraphs. Neglecting commandments and refusing to do one’s duty (which is rebellion) leads to loss of the Spirit, which leads to becoming infidel in one’s feelings (or feelings of not wanting to be faithful, feelings of unbelief), which leads to not knowing whether certain fundamental principles are true or not, which leads to vulnerability to deception, which leads to being deceived by Satan.

I believe that the emphasis in this last general conference that was put upon keeping the commandments was intended to help us avoid this particular route to apostasy.

Results of apostasy
You have known men who, while in the Church, were active, quick and full of intelligence; but after they have left the Church…they have become darkened in their minds and everything has become a mystery to them, and in regard to the things of God, they have become like the rest of the world, who think, hope and pray that such and such things may be so, but they do not know the least about it. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p82)
Those who leave the Church are like a feather blown to and fro in the air. They know not whither they are going; they do not understand anything about their own existence; their faith, judgment and the operation of their minds are as unstable as the movements of the feather floating in the air. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p82)
…notwithstanding all the professed determination to live godly, apostates after turning from the faith of Christ, unless they have speedily repented, have sooner or later fallen into the snares of the wicked one, and have been left destitute of the Spirit of God, to manifest their wickedness in the eyes of multitudes. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, pp320-21)
From apostates the faithful have received the severest persecutions. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p321)
Here we see another progression. From uncertainty about the things of God, comes aimlessness and instability of purpose because all foundation of deep meaning for life has been doubted. From this, all foundation for good works seems rooted up and the difference between good and evil becomes confused because the foundations for a sure knowledge have been rejected. Deception tightens its hold and no good influence can stand in the way of the apostate doing worse and worse things without the good influence being condemned wrongly as evil. In this way, genuinely good people are considered evil by apostates, and the apostates will target them with the strongest opposition and persecution.

Belief in certain fundamentals is imperative
There are some great truths in the plan of redemption that are fundamental. They cannot be ignored; none others can be placed before them. The fatherhood of God, the efficacy of the atonement of our Lord and Savior, the restoration of the gospel in these latter days, must be accepted with our whole hearts. We cannot compensate for a lack of faith in these essential doctrines by the most absolute abstinence from things unhealthful, by the rigid payment of tithing on our “anise and cummin” [see Matthew 23:23], or by the observance of any other outward ordinance. Baptism itself without faith in God avails nothing. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p119)
Errors will be righted
The Church of Christ is with the Saints. It has committed to it the law of God for its own government and perpetuation. It possesses every means for the correction of every wrong or abuse or error which may from time to time arise, and that without anarchy, or even revolution; it can do it by process of evolution—by development, by an increase of knowledge, wisdom, patience and charity. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p116)
Confidence in the saints
I believe, too, that the most of the Latter-day Saints are wise enough, that they have sufficient intelligence and a sufficient portion of the Spirit of the living God in their hearts, to decide between truth and error, between right and wrong, and between light and darkness; and I will say I believe they have sense enough to abide by the simple, pure, truthful principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in preference to all the vagaries of philosophers, or of scientists, or of anybody else. There is no science, nor philosophy that can supersede God Almighty’s truth….I believe that the Latter-day Saints know enough about the word of God to know it is His word when they see it and shun whatever is not (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p119-20)
Escaping apostasy
When confidence is restored, when pride shall fall, and every aspiring mind be clothed with humility as with a garment, and selfishness give place to benevolence and charity, and a united determination to live by every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord is observable, then, and not till then, can peace, order and love prevail. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p320)
One of the difficulties of leaving the road to apostasy and getting back on the right course is that frequently one’s confidence in oneself shatters. No one ever expects that they will someday be one of those people who has to escape apostasy, so the realization that this has happened to oneself is very hard to take. It’s hard on the ego.

It is easy to begin to question yourself and your decisions constantly, wondering if you are really doing what is right or whether you are about to make a mistake again. It’s very easy to begin over-thinking everything.

The discomfort of doubting yourself can begin to cause you to look back on the days before the “I’ve-been-going-apostate” realization with nostalgia. You begin to miss the days when you used to be sure of yourself and confident of being right.

Eventually you realize that perhaps that confidence that you miss may have been what led to the pride that put you in danger of apostasy. You may begin to realize the absolute necessity of retaining humility. You may become terrified of somehow backsliding.

You may read the scriptures and begin to find that the stories about anti-Christs and the rebellious seem to have much greater depth to you and that you have a more profound understanding about their side, and this will probably distress you. Reading those stories may begin to hurt more than it has before. You may feel afraid of telling others about what you’ve learned because you may fear what it may indicate to them about you.

You may begin to feel that you are terribly wicked. And because of your efforts to remain humble, you may not feel able to fight these feelings without worrying that you are putting yourself at risk of pride again.

It is necessary to transfer one’s faith in one’s self to faith in Christ. Things that helped me were the following:
  • Praying to feel properly sorry
  • Praying for mercy and forgiveness
  • Praying every time I felt tempted
  • Reading the scriptures every day
  • Praying to receive spiritual instruction without criticism or a jaded attitude
  • Confession and submitting to discipline
  • Keeping the commandments carefully
  • Trusting that with Christ’s help I could get through it
It is likely that it may be said that I am a stronger person for having almost apostatized, but that is not true. Strength only comes from depending on the Lord, not from almost apostatizing. Learning to depend on the Lord can be accomplished without apostasy. We have enough trials and afflictions in our lives by which to learn faith in God without needing to dance with the devil.

Like Brigham Young once said, I have learned enough to know that by myself I am nothing. When I conclude to follow the gospel and depend upon the Lord, all will come right, whether in life or eternity, it doesn’t much matter.

I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church. The gospel was restored through the instrumentality of Joseph Smith, and he was a true prophet. I know that the scriptures are true. I know that the above quotations are true. Thomas S. Monson is a true prophet, and the apostles have been called of God. I know that we have to follow our priesthood leaders and keep the commandments, or we will fall into error and Satan will sift us and separate us. It is easy to puff ourselves up with pride, and I know it is important to use the words of God to humble ourselves. I know that prayer can save us from temptation. I know that Christ has made it possible for us to overcome every spiritual difficulty with His help.

4 comments:

Floyd the Wonderdog said...

Very good work!

Allan said...

Great post! I can tell you have pondered and studied this topic for a while, I found it very insightful. I was also impress by some counsel you posted on another site a while ago, and felt it to be very wise counsel:

“ Cling to the Lord, since He is the source of all good. Acknowledge His power and plead for His help and be ready to receive it. Study the scriptures; like the iron rod in Lehi's dream, they will lead you right. Allow the word to humble you. Pray for the Spirit to guide you. Keep the commandments. In the dark moments, pray for angels to surround you and defend you against evil. Go to the temple to access greater power.

There are evil spirits running amok in the world, spreading fear, anger, hate, lust, disbelief, doubt, discouragement, and more. It takes a lot of work to fortify yourself against those influences.”

My church calling takes me into the homes of many apostate members, (a seemingly long time faithful member started convincing them, church leaders had apostatized and they needed to live a higher law, ((you get the picture)) he left a lot of wreckage in his wake). Some of these people were once very faithful. If they would have been following this counsel, I doubt they (and I) would be going through so much sorrow now. It seems to start with small things at first then they just keep building.
An interesting thing to me though is that, as I have been in many of their homes (and most have been friendly enough) they and their homes seem to be noticeably devoid of any spirit, you really feel the stark emptiness there. In contrast I have been to homes of LDS antagonists and felt a good spirit in some of them, had an enjoyable time and felt some christlike love there. Obviously there a big difference between someone deceived by satan or the world (is there any difference really?) and those that once had the light and willfully rebel against God.

velska said...

"if a man shall do anything which he knows to be wrong, and repenteth not, he cannot enjoy the Holy Spirit, but will walk in darkness..."

How true. As I know by unfortunate experience. It would be great to be able to learn all of the lessons without making the mistakes. As it is, I am not sure how much pain to me and my beloved I could have avoided. I only know I'm happy to feel redeemed. And do not want to go there again.

Michaela Stephens said...

Well, Velska, the important thing is that the lessons get learned. At least we can be happy about that and try to remember.