Monday, April 28, 2008

Amazing Grace: Why Do So Many Mormons Not Get It?

Note on Comments for This Post: Somehow, blogger is displaying about 3 fewer comments than have actually been entered. I have added 3 comments, so that the last relevant ones will be shown. In addition, I have closed comments on this article. Please click on this link to continue commenting on the original article. Sorry for the inconvenience.

In large part because of the many childish and tyrannical things we do to each other (and to ourselves), life sometimes seems to suck. God, however, did not intend it to be that way. Unfortunately, our worst tormentor is often ourselves. We Mormons mentally flagellate ourselves on a regular basis. God especially did not intend it to be this way. Instead, he hopes that we will look upward and see the Amazing Grace that he gives to us. We're so busy with the seeming enjoyment of miring ourselves in guilt, however, that we seldom even notice that his grace is at our fingertips.

Amazing grace How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I'm found
Was blind, but now I see


A lot of Mormons are pretty blind to the grace of God. I confess that I go through phases of such blindness from time to time.

A friend of mine was once a Presbyterian minister. Upon converting to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, he became aware of an interesting contrast. He told me that while Protestant Christians focus inordinately on the grace of God (and not enough on personal works), most Mormons scarcely notice that grace is even available, because we're so busy trying to become perfect without any help.

I've heard that Latter-day Saints take top billing in use of prescription anxiety and depression-fighting drugs. I don't know if that's true, but if it is, it's probably because we're so busy looking down at all of our shortcomings instead of upward at who and what we can become. We can't seem to go a day without magnifying our own shortcomings. We feel guilty because we didn't get our home/visiting teaching done. We feel stupid because we didn't go to that extra meeting. We feel smaller than a worm because we made an excuse to avoid giving a talk in church, or because we haven't been the reason recently that someone got baptized. And how long has it been since you've read your scriptures? You barbarian!!

Enough already!

Maybe we're "borderline psychos" in part because of our stance on movies. Even though the position of the church is no longer movie-ratings based, most of us refuse to watch a movie if it might have one swearword, one baby born out of wedlock, or one act of violence--regardless of whether the movie has an inspiring story or message. Unfortunately, we Mormons often choose our friends in much the same way that we consume our movies--despite the grand story that they could tell, we reject them if they don't subscribe to our homogeneous view of life.

How boring. How un-Christlike. How lacking in self-confidence.

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures


Despite our inability to refrain from various levels of dogmatic living, God still loves us, and his grace is right before our noses. I'm not sure whether he smiles or cries a little each time we pull ourselves down by the bootstraps of our own groveling over our previous mistakes.

Why do we so often feel less than adequate? Is it because we can't bear to admit that our lives are less than perfect--much like the movies that we only watch when we think that nobody is watching us? Or is it because we can't bear to admit that less-than-perfect is still okay?

Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed


Joseph Smith taught that
Our Heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in his mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive...
Somehow we're too worried to notice, though, thinking that we are more worthy of one of God's various lightning bolts because we didn't go to the temple last month or some other such heinous sin.

Ironically, we can't accomplish our main goal--eternal life--without the grace of God, yet we slog around in our self-made muck thinking that this achievement entirely up to us.

If we remember that God's grace is really the only thing that can get us where we want to be, that should help us to start noticing that

My chains are gone
I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace


So buck up, Mormon campers! We're much better off than we think we are! (Except not in the uppity sense of sometimes thinking we're better than people who don't belong to our church.) It's okay if we have inactive, non-member, drug-addicted, or (gasp) homosexual friends. God loves them, so he won't punish us for loving them, too.

God's lightning bolts are the stuff of Greek mythology; the real God wishes we'd ask rather to be struck more often by the teaching power of his spirit. He's more than willing to pour his grace on even the non-praying, non-scripture reading, non-church-going, bird-flipping-in-traffic heathen than we can scarcely imagine.




44 comments:

  1. My Sunday School lesson on Sunday (I teach the 15 & 16 years olds) was supposed to begin with comparing the kids to the people under King Benjamin, and used words like unworthy and worthless. I decided not to teach it. Instead I shared an experience I had the week before.

    I did a triathlon. The swim was phenomenal and the bike section could not have gone better. My times were better than they have ever been. The run started off badly when I forgot to remove my bike helmet. With that taken care of, I focussed on the getting through the run, only to have an injury come back to haunt me, and deal with some pretty severe cramping. My mood soured when a 65 year old woman came power walking past me. I ended up finishing in my best time ever, but all I could think about was how badly I bombed on the run. After listening to me for a few minutes, my sweet wife got to the point where she wanted to slap me. She was genuinely excited for me at having done so well, and it offended her, that I wasn't enjoying that part of it.

    Either we're children of God with divine potential, or we're worthless, unworthy creature whom God despises. I tend to think we are the former, and I think it offends God when we put ourselves down, not unlike me offending my wife.

    We're not perfect by any means, but that's not important. What is important is that we try and improve each day and help each other along.

    Excellent Post! Thanks

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  2. UK,
    You're right about the unworthy and unprofitable thing. I made a special effort with my kids (We have 14-18 in out Sunday School class.)to point out that unprofitable DOESN'T mean unworthy. It means that we OWE our Heavenly Father big time. How do we pay him back? By serving him. What happens? He blesses us more. So we always end up owing him more than we can ever repay. That's where amazing grace comes in...to make up the difference.

    Thanks for a great post Frank. We all need a reminder sometimes.

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  3. While it may be true that we owe God big time, I don't think he sees it that way... It's a relationship based on love, not a business arrangement. I think all to often we look at him as the big guy in the sky, carefully weighing the scales, but I think he just revels (Although I'm not sure I can picture him revelling!!) in each of us learning, growing and improving. Grace is given, not because we earn it, but because he wants to give it. Someone who is genuinely trying to improve and doing all they can to help each other along the way, is just going to be far more receptive to it.

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  4. We owe God big time in the same respect my kids owe me big time for raising them and providing for them. It just doesn't work that way...I give to them because I love them unconditionally. Whether or not they'll owe me doesn't even factor into the equation.

    Amen to the post Frank!

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  5. Excellent comments all! I think we have in our minds too much the idea of the God of the Old Testament, who made Sinai quake and who commanded Moses to kill all the heathens. My opinion is that this part of the old testament is not "translated correctly" (LDS Article of Faith 8) and that it reflects a Hellenistic influence in its current mutation. That's part of why I mentioned that God is not Zeus. It's very poignant to think that (the LDS Church teaches that) the supposedly vindictive Jehovah of the Old Testament is the same person as the meek and mild Jesus of the New Testament.

    I think when we get the "real" translation of the Old Testament we'll find out that Jehovah was a much nicer guy. Kind of like the God who is so perfect that loves us unconditionally, as Jeremy states!

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  6. Born Again Mormon4/30/2008 04:00:00 PM

    This is good question and fortunately an easy one to answer. I'll answer this in two parts.

    Part I:

    Mormonism is a religion of works:

    - temple attendance
    - genealogy
    - home/visiting teaching
    - tithing
    - meetings, meetings, meetings
    - missions
    - abstain from coffee, alcohol, etc.

    In Mormonism, works precede grace, or at least that's the doctrine. You have to earn grace.

    In Christianity, grace and salvation precede works. Grace is not earned.

    Mormons may argue that faith without works is dead, and a Christian that understands the Bible would whole-heartedly agree. The difference is the sequence: which happens first, grace or works?

    Admittedly, many "Christians" don't understand that being saved by grace does not mean you can "accept" Christ at a certain time and date, and then go bang the girl you met at the Gentlemen's Club, cheat on your taxes, and steal from your employer.

    Mormonism expects perfection and puts its members on major guilt trips. Jesus expects us to accept him and then rejuvenates us so we can perform works in His name and to His glory.

    Praise God.

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  7. BAM,

    I disagree partially with your comment. You say

    Mormonism expects perfection and puts its members on major guilt trips.

    I think it is that

    Mormonism encourages perfection, but misunderstanding by members of how that is achieved puts its members on major guilt trips.

    I completely agree with your statement that

    Jesus expects us to accept him and then rejuvenates us so we can perform works in His name and to His glory.

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  8. Born Again Mormon4/30/2008 04:14:00 PM

    Part II

    In addition to expecting behavioral perfection, Mormonism expects its members to accept irrational beliefs, and this leads to some of the symptoms that you described.

    Very few Mormons REALLY believe deep down inside that polygamy is a divine doctrine. An educated American, even one that was educated in a public school, living in the 21st century cannot possibly believe this doctrine is of God. Consequently, Mormons supress their doubts on this and tell themselves that it is their own weaknesses that cause these deep down concerns. You can see how this could mess many people up.

    The same is true for temple rituals. Let's be honest: Mormon temple rituals are bizarre. Most Mormons freak out the on their first trip to the temple, but they supress these emotions and try to reassure themselves that this will all make sense eventually if their faith is strong enough. In most cases, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy since most people can talk themselves into believing just about anything if they have an emotional justification for it (in this case, wanting the church to be true and wanting not to disappoint family members).

    These mental gymnastics inflict a lot of harm on many (not all) Mormons. This is why many Born Again Mormons feel so liberated when they accept the true gospel of Christ. They no longer have to carry the burden of trying to convince themselves of the truthfulness of doctrines that counter their own God-given abilities to reason.

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  9. I'm not sure what you mean by

    burden of trying to convince themselves of the truthfulness of doctrines that counter their own God-given abilities to reason.

    Regarding polygamy: Abraham did it. Solomon did it. Were they wrong?

    Regarding the temple: Symbolism shouldn't freak anybody out. Learning what the symbols mean is the cool part.

    A couple questions for you in this regard.

    (1) Please describe for me a reasonable God. Is it a he or a she? Does he or she have a body or is it just an ethereal essence?

    (2) Do we live eternally, or does just God live eternally?

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  10. Not sure what the answer is to (1). I'm still learning. I know what the LDS say and what the evangelicals say, but I don't know who is right.

    We live eternally.

    Regarding Abraham's and Solomon's polygamy, we should consider the norms of the time, just like we should do with slaveowners like Washington, Jefferson, and many of the other founding fathers.

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  11. Not that I want to participate in polygamy...

    But if God is eternal, shouldn't he be unchanging? If polygamy was okay in his sight then, why not now?

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  12. If I might chime in...

    I would question as to whether polygamy has ever been sanctioned by God. The more I study on the history of the practice, the less convinced I am. When those involved are also the ones recording the history, it would stand to reason that they would portray it in a positive light. No-one would want future generations to think they were dirty old men who succombed to lust!!

    As to the nature of God... Eternal, definitely.
    Unchanging, without a doubt as he is governed by natural law.

    I think all to often we try to humanize God, and thus see him at times as the thunderbolt tossing angry Deity. Perhaps the key is trying to find the nature of our eternal souls and then try and understand his nature through that - I for one am rather far from that one though.

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  13. Maybe that's a white mormon thing :)

    I've run across your blog a couple of times, I'm what you call a "lurker" I just lurk around reading things.
    I think your blog an another I will reference are some of the best LDS blogging I've experienced.
    Check out http://ablackmormongirl.blogspot.com/

    www.http://www.kaydeezplace.blogspot.com/

    SHE gets it correct most of the time.

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  14. The Mormonism of today is a Pseudo-Mormonism. I would rather call it Anti-Mormonism, since it has a very distant resemblance to the Mormonism of Joseph Smith's or Brigham Young's times. The true Doctrine (study the Doctrine and Covenants) is in many cases put upside down. Many provisions are being persistently misinterpreted and disenterpreted. All of the commandments are suffering different degrees of misinterpretation. Some are overestimated to the level of impossibility to fulfill them, others are underestimated to the level of negation. This is done with the only aim to fabricate an excuse not to keep them. By doing so we Mormons have become the most abominable in His eyes.

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  15. Anonymous the Last,

    Are you implying that LDS Church leadership is practicing pseudo-Mormonism as well? Or just many of the members?

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  16. I infer from your question that you may agree with "many of the members" but are worried if the LDS Church leadership is involved. First, I did not say many members. I said "we Mormons" meaning all of us and first of all the leadership including the top. The Bottom cannot change the Doctrine without the top. As a matter of fact it started from the bottom. We, actually our grandfathers somehow managed to force (with murmuring and often with open disobedience)the early leaders to soften the Doctrine. In this manner by passing the practice from one generation to another we (bottom an top) have skewed and adjusted the Doctrine to a point beyond recognition. But tying not to go far from your question, please read 2nd chapter of Isaiah (which is entirely devoted to the last days) especially where he speaks about the Zion, The Church, about us, the Mormons of the last days, saying "... your leaders cause thee to err".

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  17. What was the first deviation--stopping polygamy? Or was it something else?

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  18. Are you really interested to know or you are becoming irritated and defensive? If it is the second (I am sensing a lot of irritation), we better stop communicating. But if you are truly interested to know, I may disclose some of those deviations. Remember though that knowledge does not wander alone. Responsibility and obligation are its eternal companions. In other words, together with knowing about those deviations you automatically receive as much responsibility and obligation to do something. Of course, you may choose a widely exercised escape route by qualifying those deviations as groundless speculations or something else. But it will never rid you of all the responsibility. Now, respecting your question I better answer it. The Last and the Everlasting Marriage Covenant where the plurality of wives was allowed (which you call Polygamy) was not the first. First was something else.

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  19. Brother Jeffs?

    Actually, I was really curious after your first comment, since I agree with the premise in some ways. I think what you've mistaken as irritation from Frank is merely a attempt on his part to figure out exactly what it is that you're trying to say.

    So far you've established that with knowledge comes the responsibility to change. I suspect you don't read this blog very often because my impression of Frank is of a man who is very strongly based in integrity and doing the right thing no matter what.

    Like I said, I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm interested to hear what you might have to say. However the longer you beat around the bush, trying to make excuses as to why we're going to flatly reject what you have to offer to the discussion, the less interested I'm becoming. If what you wish to share is based in truth, I would think it would have no problem standing on it's own...

    Go ahead, I'm all ears...

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  20. I am not Brother Jeffs.
    It is good to know that you are really curious after my first comment. I might have been mistaken in suspecting irritation in Frank's comment. Once again it was based on my senses, it was not a final judgment. It is good that he was truly interested to know what exactly I was implying.

    It is true that I do not read this blog on a regular basis. I came across it accidentally only a couple of days ago. I am glad to hear that Frank is a man of integrity and is determined to do the right thing no matter what. It is actually what the Doctrine is expecting from us.

    It is also good to know that at least you are strongly interested to know what I have in mind. But I am not trying to make, in other words to fabricate, an excuse. I only foresee it. But if you think you will have no problem with the truth I'll be only glad to state a couple of points for starters.

    Actually, having no problems with the truth, loving and sacrificing everything for it is what the First Commandment (Love thy God with all thy heart mind and might) calls us to do (remembering "I am the truth, the light and the way"). This commandment has never been interpreted correctly. Neither by us Mormons (we should be the first considering the restored doctrine available to us together with continuing revelations), nor by anyone else. Notice though that the statement "I am the truth..." does not differentiate between religious truth and the rest of the truths, scientific or any other. With truth we should understand all truth, first of all the truth about ourselves, about our family, about neighborhood, the church, the planet, the universe, etc.

    About the continuing revelations. How can we Mormons claim continuing revelations while having no Section added to the Doctrine and Covenants for almost a century or so. There were Declarations added to the D&C but not revelations. There were of course talks throughout the century full of admonitions and encouragements (but mostly with soft speeches aiming to please the bottom, found in talks of especially the recent leaders) but never revelations, again, otherwise they would find their proper place in the D&C.

    As you know the Law of Consecration was introduced to Joseph Smith to restore the Doctrine. It, the Law of Consecration, was taught by Christ to His disciples after His resurrection. After His Ascention Peter was preaching and implementing it. The Law of Consecration was preached and practiced by Saint Paul and was only discontinued after his death. Today we Mormons, both bottom and top, have somehow decided that the Law of Consecration is revoked, that we do not have to practice it. The only place where the Father supposedly has revoked the Law of Consecration and given instead the Law of Tithing is Section 119 of the Doctrine and Covenants. If you read carefully the section you will never find words like "revoke" or "for a time" or "given instead." It is only because of the introduction to the Section itself that we understand not whatever we read there. If the Law of Consecration was revoked why was Brigham Young implementing it in Utah? Did he receive a revelation to resume it? Do we have it in writing? Brigham Young's Successors dropped the Law of Consecration after Brigham Young's death (under a pressure from the bottom, of course). But did they receive a revelation to do so? Do we have it in writing? It is not easy for the top to change the text of the Doctrine. But by adding an introduction to it, the D&C Section 119, it is possible to blind many on the bottom. Moreover when it is their desire to be blinded, to see the Law of Consecration revoked. Pay attention that while preaching that the Law of Consecration is banned we still take upon us a covenant in the temple to keep it by raising our both hands up in the air and taking an oath in front of our God to devote everything in our possession to build the Zion. In other words, to practice the Law of Consecration, since the Zion cannot be built by any other law but by the Law of Consecration. After all, the revelation in D&C 119 was given to Joseph Smith on his request to know haw to practice the Law of Consecration (the exact math) rather than on his request to revoke it.

    Another related pseudo-doctrine is that we need to live in Babylon trying not to be part of it. This is anti doctrinal. The commandment is, "Get out of Babylon." No compromises. There is no way to live in Babylon and be no part of it. The commandment "Stand in Holly places" is somehow interpreted like, live in Babylon but keep your families unspotted or live near the temples or something like that, rather than "Get out of Babylon."

    Although there is a commandment "Be perfect such as your Heavenly Father is perfect" we have turned around declaring from high places that the Father does not expect us to be perfect (notice that it is done without even trying to interpret the commandment at all). While failing to see that the above mentioned commandment is blatantly negated we go ahead and support it by "we cannot be perfect, therefore there is no need to try to." This is one of those cases where we diminish the value of the commandment to the point of negation in order for not to keep it. But first we overestimate it to the point of impossibility assuming that by "perfect" He meant free of mistakes and flaws in our everyday behavior. Well, first let's notice that the negation of the commandment is based on an assumption rather than interpretation. I myself was mislead for some time. Pondering long about this I came to an intermediate discovery that we cannot be perfect because we cannot be perfect always (again assuming that by "perfect" He meant perfectionism). I thought that we can be perfect time to time, to have a perfect behavior time to time, a precise recollection, a flawless speech, art , etc. But then the true discovery came. By "perfect" He does not mean perfectionism. By "perfect" He means free of natural man features, free of greed, free of envy, free of desire of unrighteous gain, free of desire of unrighteous dominion, etc. Is this possible to achieve? The answer is, yes. The Father would not give us a commandment which was impossible for us to keep.

    There are a number of other deviations from the doctrine, as I mentioned previously an overwhelming number of them, if not all our (latter-day Mormon) teachings, policies and practices. But we better stop for now.

    Best regards

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  21. Anonymous,

    I've wondered about that as well, but just because nothing has been added to the Doctrine & Covenants does not mean that we haven't received additional revelation. Take, for example, the proclamation to the world on the family.

    Here are a couple of statements from Ezra Taft Benson that I think are important as regards this conversation:

    To publish differences we may think we have with the leaders of the Church, to create strife and division, is a sure road to apostasy. Our task is to stick with the kingdom, to not let anything or anybody disaffect or sour us toward that great gift that Christ has given us—his church.

    Also

    Though his prophet is mortal, God will not let him lead his church astray. Sometimes in our attempts to mimic the world, and contrary to the prophet’s counsel, we run after the world’s false educational, political, musical, and dress ideas. Now during all this gradual lowering of standards, the righteous should be living up to the highest personal standards they can, not forcing those standards on others, but preparing for and awaiting a better day, which surely must come.

    So, to sum up, I agree with you that there are problems in the Church. They may even involve members of prominent leadership standing. But the Lord will not allow the prophet to lead the Church astray.

    I hope that you agree.

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  22. I cannot agree with any of your points. But first I noticed that you agreed with all my points but the continuing revelation issue. In a hurry to iron any wrinkles notwithstanding what, you are passing declarations and proclamations as revelations. It is revelation only when it starts "Thus saith the Lord thy God. Hear the voice of my mouth..." or very similar to this. All the rest of the texts are personal thoughts, which should be listened to rather than taken without questioning. He stated in D&C many times, "Give heed onto my words" but "Listen to my prophets." Notice the big difference. Also in a haste to keep piece, I would call it tranquility in the Church you are sacrificing the Doctrine. After all there is no such a statement from God that He will never allow His Church to be led astray. There is no such a revelation. Ezra Taft Benson's statement is not a revelation. Benson himself did not claim it was. Are you forgetting Isaiah's revelation about us in the latter days, "...your leaders cause thee to err." It seems to me that in the same mood to keep strife away from the Church you are favoring a personal thought of a recent leader (Benson) over a revelation of an ancient prophet (Isaiah).

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  23. It seems to me like your entire position is based on one part of a verse which may or may not apply to the LDS Church. It could apply to the Jews, it could apply to secular leaders and I'm sure there are many other places it could apply. Ultimately no one can cause me to do anything, err or not - Unless I pass my free agency to them.

    As for leaders receiving revelation, I think it still happens, even if those revelations aren't canonized in scripture. While I would agree with Frank that it is not productive to publically tear down Church leaders, my own study into many of the early leaders of the Church and even many of the modern ones has led me to the opinion, that while they may have received revelation from God, very often that was mixed with their own personal opinions of the world and how they thought things should be. You only need to look at something like people of African decent receiving the Priesthood. Joseph Smith had no problem ordaining African men to the priesthood, but Brigham Young started the idea that they were somehow unworthy. This is just one of several instances. If you go into the history of Polygamy - and not the authorized family-friendly version given by the Church, I think you will find that Joseph Smith used words like "Thus sayeth the Lord" in order to coerce young ladies into marrying him. My personal belief is that Polygamy is not an inspired nor an eternal doctrine, but that is another topic for another time.

    Basically the conclusion I have come to is this...

    "Love the Lord your God with all your Heart, Might, Mind and Strength. That is the first and greatest commandment and the Second is like unto it, Love thy neighbor as thyself." That alone should be enough to inspire me to live a Christlike life and strive to become perfect. The path to perfection isn't about being more perfect than anyone else and it's not about being motivated entirely by guilt, it's about making personal improvements on a daily basis.

    At times people in leadership positions may give advice, revelation or whatever you would like to call it. At the end of the day, I have my free agency to accept or reject it, and I have access to the spirit to know if it has come from God. I don't care who the person is that gives the advise is, I still need confirmation that it comes from God. The idea that a prophet should be followed blindly, as should other leaders of the Church is one of the greatest risks to the plan of Salvation. If you think about it, there is no difference between that, and the plan proposed by Lucifer in the pre-existence.

    At the end of the day I have the believe that by following the first two commandments, I am personally on the path I need to be on. If I am living them, something like the Law of Consecration should just happen naturally. I don't need a leader telling me if, how or when I should be living it. It should just be something I naturally have a desire to do.

    When we get hung up on the words which someone has said or on various rituals and ceremonies, I think we fall in danger of heading down the same path as the pharasies and other similar groups.

    God doesn't want us to leave this life as an obedient group of mindless robots. We're here to learn and grow, sometimes in spite of our leaders.

    At least that's my take on it...

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  24. That is a good take, to exercise one's free agency. That is what I am calling to do rather than to blindly follow whatever a Church leader may have claimed, i.e. that "the lord will never suffer his people to be led astray." If you think seriously this is what Lucifer stated in the preexistence. The Lord's plan was to let His people to be tested even by being led astray by its leaders (an ultimate test). As I said there is no scripture supporting Benson's claim that the Lord will never suffer his Church to be led astray.

    But returning to your response, you are looking to apply Isaiah's prediction to anywhere but the LDS Church. Why are you excluding us? Isaiah speaks about Zion, His people rather than any secular leader or Jewish. Let me tell you where is your mistake. Your judgment is clouded not only because of a desire to see the own house clean and unspotted, the best, but also because there were some other preceding statements like that. Brigham Young addressing the Church people has said, "IF you keep the commandments, the Lord will not suffer you to be led astray." We have cut out the first part of it and ended up with a completely different statement (with only the second part, taken out of context). The other thing contributing to the notion, that the Lord will not suffer His people to be led astray is another statement sounding like, the priesthood will never ever be taken away from the earth. But the Priesthood issue needs a through introduction since we LDS currently do not have any idea what Priesthood is all bout. Brigham Young explained that the Priesthood is the Celestial law or the knowledge of the Celestial Law rather than a power. Power comes with the knowledge though. Today we give each other a Priesthood with the laying on of hands without realizing that one cannot give a knowledge of the Celestial Law by a mere laying on of hands moreover the immense power that comes with it. We do not understand that the Priesthood can only be obtained, also that the only thing the true Priesthood holder does by layin on of his hands is confirming his recognition of the person's achievement (of obtaining the Priesthood = the knowledge of the Celestial Laws) and gives him a right to act as a Priesthood holder in his presence and in general. Now it is true that the Priesthood = the Celestial Law = the Doctrine will never be taken away from the earth because of the invention of typography. Because the Restored Doctrine is printed (D7C, Book of Mormon, Perl of Great Price) in big numbers, and no one can change it. As a little reminder, the Doctrine was lost many times in the past because of the absence of the invention of typography. Anciently the Doctrine was preached by a prophet and lost after his death. Or there were only few handwritten books and it was easy to rewrite them. But now after a mass production of D&C, Book of Mormon, Perl of Great Price there is no way one can change them all. So, by saying the Priesthood will never be taken away from the Earth the scriptures mean the Knowledge containing in those books printed in great numbers. Again, this and Brigham Young's IF statement have helped us to come up with a pseudo-doctrinal notion that "the Lord will never suffer us to be led astray." Once again if you think a little deeper and more seriously you will find that this notion is exactly what Lucifer suggested to do.

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  25. I wasn't excluding the Church at all, it just seems like you have taken a piece of a verse and are trying to apply to the current situation and say that the leaders of the Church have lead it astray. I think many leaders in the Church are teaching things that cause people to err, but ultimately the problem is that people are just blindly doing what they are told. I fully admit it is a problem, and I oppose it where ever possible.

    Perhaps if you could clarify one thing for me... It would appear to me that you are against people blindly following a currently serving prophet, however you fully support people following the commandments of older prophets in order to be kept from being led astray. From where I sit the only difference between a modern prophet and one from a bygone era, is merely timing. At the end of the day, the individual still has the responsibility to investigate the counsel given by the prophet and exercise their own personal free agency.

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  26. It is good to know that you were not excluding the Church. The Church though is the first and the only candidate. Why would Isaiah address it to somebody else, since we are the the Lord's Latter day Church = people = Zion? And I am not taking just a phrase out of the verse. The whole second chapter of Isaiah is all about the Latter day Saints. Read it carefully and you will find that his description of us matches exactly with the current situation in the Church. But while disagreeing with me on this you still "... think many leaders in the Church are teaching things that cause people to err."

    It is true that people have their free agency. Nobody is able to take another's free agency. It is also true that many in the church have surrendered their free agency and are doing whatever they are told . But this is only because they are told whatever they want to hear, because they want to put their burden of responsibility on somebody else's shoulders, because on the great judgment day they want to have an excuse like "We did whatever we were told, it is not our fault, You said to follow the prophet, You said that You will never suffer us to be led astray, etc, what we did wrong?" This may work in a lot of cases, I am afraid. Maybe not. I am not sure.

    I was actually coming to say, that after Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (actually those very few who had seen Joseph Smith) there are no prophets in the Church. Actually none of us are priesthood holders. No one can have a priesthood unless he lives according to the Law of Consecration, which actually is the restored Doctrine. There were many wise and at times valiant people but they were just presidents rather than prophets.

    Coming to your statement that following the first two commandments is enough. I agree with it. But it depends how far are you ready to keep them. I stated the correct interpretation of the first commandment in my previous messages. Love thy God means to love truth, justice and fairness above everything else in the world including one's children and parents. By keeping the second commandment we should not have rich and poor among us. If you loved your neighbor as thyself, would you suffer him to have less than yourself? the answer is, no. I would expand more on this commandment but I have got to go.

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  27. Well, whether or not Isaiah is referring specifically to the LDS Church probably comes down to personal interpretation. I'm not saying it isn't referring to the Church, but at the same time, I think it could be interpreted many other ways as well. A faithful latter-day saint would probably agree with you whole-heartedly, a devout Jew or Catholic however might not...

    I would suspect that for those who plan to use the excuse of.. Well I followed the prophet blindly and did everything I was told may well end up like the servant who was given 1 talent and did nothing with it. Personally a swift smack to the forehead would be what I would hand out, but fortunately I'm not God.

    Based on your reasoning and my studies on Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, I would have to include them all in the same group as all Presidents of the Church since. I tend to side with Oliver Cowdery when he described Joseph Smith as a fallen prophet. With that said I believe that there a wonderful divine truths which we have purely because of revelation through Joseph Smith, and there is much wisdom to gain from Brigham Young as well, but I would definitely not hold them apart from prophets in recent years. All they and current prophets have said should be considered carefully by all before it is adopted.

    Following the first 2 commandments isn't an overnight decision. It's a process. If we were to truly follow them, then I believe you are right and we would live in a paradisical state and there would be no poor among us. With that said though, I'll be the first to admit that I have a long way to go int the process. We cannot compare ourselves to others in this quest, nor judge them on how they are progressing themselves. It all comes down to a question of "What am I doing to more closely follow the example of Christ and to serve my fellow man?" I think we're probably on the same page with this one though.

    When all is said and done though, if I could bring the topic back to the original one put forth by Frank, it's not my actions that assure me eternal life. It's grace that really makes the difference. As I strive more fully to follow the two great commandments, I believe I'll gain a greater understanding of what that grace is and how it applies to me.

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  28. It is true that Isaiah's prediction may find numerous different interpretations depending on a n interpreter. But it does not mean that Isaiah meant more than one thing. I guess we are still at different poles on this.

    I am noticing though that you would agree with me on my other points since I do not see any counter argument. By putting Joseph Smith and Brigham Young in the same boat with the rest of the Church leaders is a little too much. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were true Priesthood holders (they were able to heal) whereas others after them were not. Why? Again because one cannot have a Priesthood without living the Law of Consecration. Although if it the desire of one's heart it will be taken into account on the Great Judgment day. Such may be the case with me and you and many of the Church members out there, even many non members. I would leave though the personalities of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young out of our conversation since it is not about persons but about the Doctrine versus the pseudo-doctrine taught and practiced by the Church. I spoke about the Church leaders to come to state that after Brigham Young the fall, the deviation, the departure from the Doctrine was gradual. With the last leaders I do not see anything doctrinal.

    It is true that one cannot become perfect, free of natural man features overnight. Of course it is a process. But the decision to start may be an overnight thing, although coming to it, to the decision may take a longer time. I am glad that as you say "we're probably on the same page with this one though." You are right that "We cannot compare ourselves to others in this quest, nor judge them on how they are progressing themselves ." I was not calling to compare or to judge. You are absolutely right with "What am I doing to more closely follow the example of Christ and to serve my fellow man?"

    Unfortunately all is not said. There is a great number of pseudo-doctrines of current Mormonism that I did not even imply about. But if you would like to switch to Frank's topic, I have no problem with that.

    After briefly reeding his points I came to see mercy behind his concept of grace. As for now I cannot agree with the statement "it's not my actions that assure me eternal life." I think it mostly depends on our actions and the desire of our hearts rather than anything else. In the D&C one may read "My blood will not cleanse them if they hear me not." So without at least having a desire in one's heart to keep the two commandments one does not have any hope to be cleansed, therefore saved. Again sincere desire of one's heart is a requirement for salvation. And where there is a desire there will be actions. Sacrifices are needed to obtain salvation. Our, Mormons' misfortune is that we believe that being baptized is enough for salvation, for obtaining a passport to the Celestial Kingdom. Hence happy Mormon funerals (another anti-doctrinal notion). The scriptures (D&C call us to mourn our dead, since it is unclear where do they go, to the Celestial Kingdom or to the outer darkness). Here it is important to emphasize that we LDS cannot have access to the other two, Terrestrial and Tellestial kingdoms. D&C 76, I thing provides a thorough explanation on this. I thing it is a better idea to study and adhere to the scriptures rather than to a talk or an opinion of a prophet both ancient and modern. I do not favor ancient prophets over the modern or vice versa. I am calling to follow the scriptures rather than policies and trends. I am calling not to rely on a leader. It will never earn us an excuse. We are all intelligent, at least literate people, and scriptures are readily available. If we may somehow have an excuse that, for example we do not understand the middle English of the King James version, there are the Book of Mormon, there is the D&C, Pearl of Great Price. After all there is the Jehovah Witnesses' translation of the Old and the new testaments. But coming back to your concept of grace which seems yo me is all about the Father's love and mercy for us, I think you have a point of course. But again it, the love and mercy will not be extended to those who have heard the word = the Doctrine, have accepted it, by being baptized and then decided to adjust it to their temporal needs.

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  29. OK, so we differ on our opinions of the interpretation of Isaiah's prediction - although perhaps the word you were looking for was prophesy...

    It is interesting however that you are completely willing to throw recent and current prophets under the bus based on a single point of doctrine, but yet refuse to see the problems with Joseph Smith or Brigham Young. Since you brought up personality (I didn't), I personally think both had personalities perfect for the period of their callings. Joseph's charasmatic approach was perfect for initiating the restoration of the Gospel and the Church, and Brigham's business-man approach was perfect for developing Utah as a place for the saints. What I brought up was the doctrines they taught. Unless you can provide for me a rational explanation as to why Polygamy and the "Blacks not Worthy to Receive the Priesthood" doctrines are based in anything other than racial bigotry or an attempt to cover up infidelity, then it is apparent that they too taught false doctrine, or as you keep calling it pseudo-doctrine.

    Living the law of consecration and being able to heal aren't the only qualifications for a prophet. I have known plenty of people in my life who have lived this law, and also many who appear to have the ability to heal. I wouldn't regard them as prophets though, just good people seeking to follow the life of Christ.

    As for Frank's original topic, mercy is absolutely the same as grace. It's not Frank's concept, its the whole basis of the gospel. Without mercy/grace, salvation would not be possible. It is through God's mercy that the Atonement is able to take place. Yes, we have the responsibility to live up to the best of our potential, which may include following the commandments, but at the end of the day, it can only be through grace/mercy that we achieve that final step.

    What Frank was referring to was that very often members of the Church get so caught up on living certain commandments with exactness that they completely dismiss the role of the Atonement. I'm not suggesting that we can all sin to our hearts content, and neither was Frank as that misses the point, but I am saying that my salvation does not depend on achieving 83.5% on my hometeaching, living the law of consecration with a 93% margin of accuracy in determining my needs versus my wants. It depends on me doing the best I can each day to love God, follow the example of his son and help those around me.

    Perhaps when considering all of your points, I should probably conceed that I don't think you and I worship the same God. Mine is more of a loving Father in Heaven wanting each of us to achieve our full potential, whereas the way you describe your God quite honestly scares me, and in all honesty outer darkness sounds like a much safer place to spend my eternal years. Heaven forbid that I strike a chord wrong on my harp and be cast out because of it!!

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  30. Prophesy and prediction are synonyms. I went with prediction, since it a more accurate term for the case.

    I am not throwing recent and current prophets under the bus based only on a single point of doctrine. There is a whole range of doctrinal principles. So far I have stated only very few of them. I mentioned the Church leaders (the top) only together with the bottom, stating that the deviation started with a pressure from the bottom, then the tops changed the doctrine, actually the interpretation of it. As I mentioned earlier no one can change the text of the Doctrine because of the invention of typography. So I mentioned the top together with the bottom. Do not take the top out of context.

    I did not say that living the law of consecration and being able to heal are the only qualifications for a prophet. They are the qualifications of a Priesthood holder. You need something more to qualify for a prophet.

    I may agree that mercy is the whole basis of the gospel, that without mercy/grace, salvation would not be possible. But you need to differentiate between the Gospel and the Doctrine. The Gospel is part of the Doctrine (only). An important part though. With a fervent desire to be saved I am afraid you are forgetting the whole Doctrine. It also seems to me that you are trying to pass a pseudo-doctrine that everyone will be saved because of the Mercy of God. The truth of the Doctrine is that only righteous people may be saved because of Mercy. The Gospel=The Good News is that a salvation is waiting for those who suffer all their life because of Him, by sacrificing all for truth, justice and fairness. The Gospel is not foe everybody (remembering "My blood will not cleanse them if they hear me not.").

    As a matter of fact you are wrong claiming that the Church members "completely dismiss the role of the Atonement" It is the contrary. They both top and the bottom overemphasize it. I think you too. Your salvation does not depend on percentages. Your salvation depends first on the sincere desire of your heart to understand and keep the commandments, also on your actions, namely sacrifices you make to keep them, to defend truth, justice and fairness. It sounds more a justification "to the best of my abilities." All of us are furnished with the light of Christ to judge between right and wrong. So all of us have the same abilities. The difference between us is that some of us choose to see themselves with less abilities. Why? In order for to do less, but still get saved. It is pandemic. We are all trying to trick God.

    It is obvious from your words "Mine is more of a loving Father in Heaven" that you see only his mercy side rather than all. He is both loving and punishing (equally) God. We should not forget about His other side. One cannot be baptized (taking His name upon himself) make a higher covenant in the temple to keep the Law consecration then turn to live like everybody else and hope to be saved. One cannot be given the fullness of the Doctrine and then go ahead and dismiss part of it just because he wants to be saved and not be sent to the outer darkness. By saying "My blood will not cleanse them if they hear me not" He means all the Doctrine. Partial adherence to it does not count. Partial adherence counts as an attempt to trick Him which He does not like. The mercy will not be extended to those who are selective in adhering to His Doctrine, who are trying to trick him. His anger is kindled against those. I guess you do not like to read about His anger being kindled (you can find it in many-many places in the D&C). So either all the doctrine or nothing. I would strongly recommend you to read the Doctrine and Covenants rather than wasting time on exchanging personal interpretations of the Doctrine (moreover about only favorable aspects of it).

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  31. So what you're saying then is that your personal interpretation of the doctrine is right and mine is wrong?

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  32. No offense, but frankly, yes. But this is not a competition. There are no rewards for me for being right. Trust no one's interpretation of the Doctrine including mine. Why would you trust any one in eternal matters. Do we trust any one in temporal matters? However intelligent one may look none (including myself) may have the most perfect interpretation of all the aspects of the Doctrine. Read, study the Doctrine carefully without taking any sides, impartially, leaving aside personal wishes, desires, with a suppressed wishful thinking. Start with the Doctrine and covenants. I remember you were the one whose creed was the truth and nothing but the truth about the Doctrine. If this is the truth you have all the grounds ready to launch your scrupulous study. It will not be easy since many precepts are hidden under layers of different barriers, time, language, customs, mentality, etc. It took me a decade to find the core of the cores. Although maybe there are points beyond what I have found.

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  33. No offense taken, although it does make you look somewhat arrogant ;-)

    I can appreciate your views as mine used to be very much the same. It was through much reading, studying and a significant amount of time on my knees that I realized things where not as I had previously thought.

    I know you have tried to avoid discussion on Joseph Smith, but when I found out about some of the things he was involved in prior to his murder, I felt like my world had come crashing down. The thing is while he made some horrendous mistakes, that doesn't take away from many of the divine truths he taught. It's the same with the modern prophets, they might say things you don't agree with, but take each point on it's own merits, ponder, pray and all of that, and they have plenty good to teach as well.

    In no way was I advocating a life of sin or justification for my shortcomings, but at the same time, the plan of salvation is not about having to suffer through life under the hand of a cruel and vindictive God.

    In my personal life I see the change in me like moving from the law of Moses, which was very rigid and subject to harsh punishments, to the higher law which Christ ushered in, which was more about making sure your heart was in the right place and that your motives are pure. Anyone can blindly follow a series of rituals and a rigidly obedient life - Just ask the guys who perpetrated 9/11! But what good is it if our hearts aren't in the right place, or we have followed blindly down the wrong path.

    I don't think you're wrong per say, but I feel terrible for people such as yourself that feel like they need to suffer through this life in the hopes of gaining some reward for their pains in the next. My mother is much the same; absolutely miserable each day in the hopes of gaining some kind of eternal reward - She lives in terror that any kind of happiness is Satan trying to lead her away - in a way its really pathetic. I can't see a loving Father in Heaven wishing that on anyone. We need trials to grow, absolutely, we need to choose the right when ever confronted with a choice, but suffering is a personal choice and not at all what was intended.

    That was the whole point of the atonement, so that we wouldn't have to suffer. It's not a free ride to do and say as you please, but it is an option to be able to know that as long as you are doing the best you can, Christ will make up the difference.

    Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy.

    This life is a time for us to prepare to meet God. I believe it should be and is a great opportunity to learn, grow and have a great time doing so.

    I believe the Doctrine, the Gospel, Scriptures, prophets old and new are all good in their own place, but they are not the object of our existence, merely signs pointing us in the direction of eternal life.

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  34. It is good that no offense is taken. It is not my aim to offend anybody on this blog site. We, all of us here are on a voluntary basis and are engaged in exchange of ideas for mutual enrichment. Therefore there must be a mutual respect.

    It is true that any claim "I am right and you are wrong" as a rule is qualified as arrogance. Now you know how people felt when a simple carpenter's son declared that he was the God or son of the God. Similar mechanism was triggered here although on a smaller scale. i absolutely do not blame you to have the feeling. It was expected.

    You are right when you say about Joseph Smith, "The thing is while he made some horrendous mistakes, that doesn't take away from many of the divine truths he taught." That is exactly why I do not want to speak about him. He is only a man who may have (actually has) done big mistakes. The Father admonishes him for those mistakes (without naming them one by one though) in the Doctrine and Covenants. By the way, Joseph Smith was honest enough to put those words in there. So are you trying to hang Joseph Smith while sparing the rest of the Church leaders? Where is the same Grace? Is it not applicable to Joseph Smith also? Does the Father love us more than him? At least through him the Fullness of the Doctrine was restored. What did we do?

    It is good that you are not advocating a life full of sin. When you say "...the plan of salvation is not about having to suffer through life under the hand of a cruel and vindictive God." I think you are misunderstanding my point. First of all, I did not say God is cruel and vindicative. I said He is both (and equally) loving (merciful) and punishing, such as any caring biological father of any of us. Caring always involves both, love and punishment. Love is not the only component of care. With only loving and all permitting parents children grow spoiled. Second, I did not say that sufferings that we go through in this life are because of the Father. They are because of the Satan. Of course, "men are that they might have joy."
    But this is in ideal. The point of the plan of salvation is to come down to live through the life on this planet (which was from the beginning given to the Satan to reign) thus to be tested. I am not saying we should be grateful for all the misfortunes never enjoying joyful moments in life like a birth of a son or a daughter, like new achievements on the ladder of spirituality, listening to a true follower of the Doctrine, learning from him, or teaching the same principles to an obedient disciple, creation of a true artwork or music or poetry, etc. The only thing I am against is to waste time on looking for and having fun. It is extremely negative. do not feel terribly sorry for me. I do not like suffering. The only thing I was saying is that it is inevitable for righteous people to suffer in this life because of the Satan (remembering Christ's example will be enough). Which is actually the whole point of the Plan of Salvation, according to which we are to be tested in all things, including false prophets even false Christ which was predicted to appear himself before the arrival of the real one with an aim to put us through an ultimate test. I think you have something wrong in mind when you say "suffering is a personal choice and not at all what was intended." If we choose the Satan's side we will not suffer. But if we choose the Lord's side we shall surely suffer because of the Satan. I think you are forgetting what Christ said something like "whoever suffers for my sake, theirs will be the kingdom of heaven." This of course does not mean a self inflicted physical or emotional pain. This means that those who endure to the end by standing firm on the rock of truth (inevitably being battered by Satan) they will see salvation. Again this is the Gospel and it is addressed to the righteous only. The Gospel is not for unrighteous. Christ will make up the difference only for righteous.

    It is true that "This life is a time for us to prepare to meet God." Also that "...it should be and is a great opportunity to learn, grow and have a great time doing so." Not fun though. But most importantly to be tested, even going through the test of false prophets.

    What I am against is a mass delusion that because of the grace or mercy or atonement we need to sit back and wait to be saved. It is wrong to believe that He has taken upon himself all our sins or sorrows or sufferings or something like that. I think this notion has come to being because of a wrong translation. He did not suffer FOR our sins but BECAUSE OF our sins, meaning because of the sins of our fathers who crucified Him. If because of the Atonement all our sins are taken then what are we doing here? Doesn't that negate the concept of repentance, since all our sins are pardoned. I think you are pushing a fuzzy concept which may very well be because of a wishful thinking. He came and suffered in the flesh in this life to show us that He is genuinely aware of the sufferings of the righteous, therefore He will be the most fair judge and advocate in one on the Great Judgment Day.

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  35. Like I said... I used to believe what you believe :-)

    I think in your efforts to find the flaws in my argument, you've missed the point of most of what I have been saying.

    This may be a case of us having to agree to disagree. I have walked to road you are walking and while I am grateful for the experience, I don't believe that is the path I should be following. But that is the beauty of free agency. We can each choose the path that we feel drawn to and believe to be right. I'm not saying you're wrong or that I'm wrong, we just see things very differently.

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  36. Obviously we have different understanding of the Doctrine. But it does not mean that it, the Doctrine has several meanings. There is only one true meaning and consequently one true interpretation. It is my prayer that we can find it.

    Best regards
    Good by

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  37. Somehow last several comments posted by me on August 5 and 6 have been cut out. I hope it is not an intentional action. Otherwise I may loose all the respect I had for the initiator of the blog and all the participants.

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  38. The problem seems to be that blogger is displaying about 3 less comments than there really are.

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  39. Sorry, it was a computer glitch probably. It did not show me the last couple of comments of August 5 and 6.
    Sorry.

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