An Open Letter to the Discontents of My Church


“An Open Letter to the Discontents of My Church”

By Jesus

I understand your concerns, truly I do. Of course, being who I am, you probably already believe my perfectly empathic nature fully comprehends your worries and frustrations, yet that only amplifies your struggle to understand why things continue to be the way they are. My servants have tried varying strategies to help you, and frankly I’m not surprised those strategies haven’t worked. My servants are, after all, products of their own language and culture. This is why I’m writing to you now, in the hope that more fully understanding where I’m coming from can help you to see how all this constant talk about traditional families (which I know occurs much more frequently than in the past) fits into the greater plan I have for all my children.

As you can see, I’m aware how put off you can be with all the honorifics usually accompanying my given name–”Lord,” “Savior,” “Almighty God,” etc. So for this conversation I just want you to think of me as Jesus. Just Jesus. Imagine that it’s just you and Jesus, having an open and honest chat about things that are important to us both.

Let me cut right to the heart of your concerns with a review of a basic theological premise: “God does not change.” It doesn’t really get more foundational than that. Several passages of scripture and centuries of tradition are more than enough to convince us that God remains the same for eternity, no matter what happens.

I get that, I really do. In order to put your whole faith in God in a world of terrible risk, you have to know that God isn’t going to arbitrarily change the rules of the game, that God won’t suddenly change his mind about something he’s asked his children to do, or abandon you when you need him most. It would also be disorienting to see God behaving differently at various points along a timeline; how would we then know how to measure the Good? What virtuous attributes to develop? What moral guidelines to adopt and argue for? How could we believe God would not randomly smite us?

Please put your minds at ease. I don’t change. I definitely would not say that. You can still put your full trust and faith in me. I am the same at all times in all the ways that matter. No, I would say I…evolve. Now, I don’t want anyone to freak out, I’m not talking about organic evolution here (that’s a different letter). This is something different. I’m talking about evolving in the sense of progressing, advancing. In every existing thing there are elements that essentially stay the same, and elements that get, shall we say, stretched out and re-shaped a little. But I wouldn’t use the word “change” to describe this process. I’d say I often see the complexity of certain things that in an earlier era I considered rather simple and straightforward, once I’ve considered them over an extended period of time. I definitely evolve in that sense. Allow me to give you several examples of how this has been the case, extending from my mortal life to my universal post-mortal reign.

First, let’s get this out of the way: there are a lot of theories about my humanity while I was on Earth. Some think I was fully divine but posing as a human being, others that I was half human and half divine, still others that I was fully human, and other combinations of divinity and humanity. To be honest, I’m not fully certain myself. I certainly believed I was human at the time, but if I really was human I was limited as to what I could know about myself, so maybe I wasn’t fully human and just didn’t know it. Of course, I retained full omniscience after my death, and you would think that would have given me the answer, but omniscience merely means that you know all that is known, not that you know everything about every single thing. And apparently that’s something no one actually knows. But in any case, I certainly felt human so I would prefer we go with that. My mortal humanity, after all, plays an important role in my overall outlook.

Let’s start with my earthly birth. I was born into a really poor family. I’m not talking about one of those families where the children grow up and look back and finally realize they were poor but at the time thought their parents had given them everything. No, we were poor as dirt and I consciously lived every second of it. Every day was a struggle to survive.

As I grew up, I gradually came to realize that I had a special mission from God to fulfill. I came to see very clearly that my community was without God’s kingdom, but that the kingdom was near, soon to come. I saw that this kingdom was not to be a kingdom of kings and priests but a kingdom where God ruled in love and justice, a backwards kingdom ruled by the powerless and abused.

I became more and more dissatisfied and then more and more angry that so many people where I lived were treated so unjustly by those who were comfortable and secure in their circumstances and who ruled over us by virtue of their official positions or through their wealth. But I was especially angered by so many of our religious leaders who insisted they were holy men charged with the teaching of the law and the glorification of the temple, but ignored or denigrated the poor among them and cast out those they judged as “sinners,” even those who merely looked and behaved differently from them. These poor suffering souls, these mistreated exiles were my people. We grew up together. They were my neighbors and friends. I saw myself in them every time they were spit on or ignored, every time a Roman soldier detained or killed them without cause, every time they weren’t permitted in the synagogue to hear the word of God because they were sick or had been forced into work and labor that was considered crude or filthy, or were otherwise considered unworthy to be treated as God would have them be treated.

Eventually I had enough. I started questioning the way things were done in our society. I had always been a student of scripture and started to point out the enormous gap between what scripture clearly taught and the various hurtful ways we treated one another. I began to challenge some of the rabbis on their hypocrisy and was expelled from more than one synagogue. The kingdom was coming and we were not prepared, and for me it became more and more urgent that people understood what the kingdom really was and what was at stake. The good news of this kingdom applied to everyone equally, yet we were all seduced by rank and position and money. Even those of us in the poorer parts of our villages and cities thought that this was the divine order of things and we had all been justly apportioned our lot in life. No! That was not the God I knew. That was not the God of the Law. That was not my Father.

My Father’s spirit came to teach and encourage me more and more frequently and I grew bolder and more confident in my message. I soon developed quite a following of like-minded souls (most of them living on the edge of existence as I was). I asked several of them to follow me in declaring the message of the coming kingdom. We went everywhere together, and as it became clearer that it was unlikely I would survive the increasingly hostile reception of my message–from Roman authorities and Jewish leaders alike–I tried to show them how to carry on without me, and taught them some things I didn’t think the wider populace was yet able to hear and receive.

Anyway, a lot more happened that you basically know from the New Testament, which leaves out a lot but got many of the basics right. In any case, after I had disrupted the accepted order of things more than could be borne by those who profited from it the most, they killed me. It was an incredibly painful death and at one point I genuinely wondered, just before the end, if all was lost. But after three days my corporeal body was resurrected and I ascended into heaven.

I was pretty shocked when I first arrived. My memory was fully restored and I realized I had been a God all along who had chosen to live as a mortal. That was surprising enough, but then I remembered clearly my role as an often vengeful God (as I’m sure, to my chagrin, you’ve probably read in the Old Testament). I’m embarrassed by how wrathful I often was, but I was relatively new to being a deity worshipped by mortals and unfairly expected them to obey me without question. In fact, I was so unsettled by how easily my temper could get the best of me and how hard it was to empathize with impossibly stubborn and hard-headed humans, that this is what directly led to my desire to be born into an impoverished human family and experience life as they did.

And what an experience! Nearly every moment was hard, but I learned so much and tried to impart what I learned to my followers. I’ll never forget my brief tenure on Earth. But it really was so brief, just the tiniest fraction of my endless existence. And I’ve come to realize so much more since then. Again, I wouldn’t say I changed, but I came to see much more clearly the “big picture,” the true purpose of everything. This allowed me to put my earthly experience into greater context, a context that is largely missing from the records of the time. I saw, for example, that I had what people nowadays call the “Fulness of the Priesthood,” and my closest followers were likewise priests, given authority from me to bless and heal and baptize and pass on that same authority. I wish I would have emphasized that aspect of my mission much more in my earthly ministry; I spent so much time calling out priests and rabbis for their religious hypocrisy and neglect of the marginalized that I might have made better inroads by showing them my own priestly authority, but that was a topic, frankly, I usually hammered pretty hard.

With this priesthood I formed a church, though at the time it felt more like a social movement. I would typically preach a sermon, many people would gather to listen, and I’d tell my followers to spread the message far and wide. The message was different variations of urging people to repent for the kingdom of heaven was coming, and if they listened closely they’d understand that they could do this by being more humble and loving, and in not neglecting the poor or the sick or the lonely. By doing these things they would truly honor the covenant God made with Israel. By not doing these things, they dishonored that covenant. Baptism was important too (I myself was baptized after all) and we taught that people should do it as a sign of their commitment before God to change and a desire to be renewed, but honestly, with our limited resources we were a bit more focused on changing hearts and minds than on formalities. Now, of course, post-mortality, my understanding is enhanced and I see that baptism is absolutely crucial for salvation. In fact, if you were a very good person who always cared for others, but you refused baptism by the proper authority, you’d still end up in a special prison after death, and you wouldn’t be allowed out until someone else was baptized on your behalf. I always feel a little sheepish when I remember that I basically skipped a lot of that in favor of encouraging people to seek out those who are physically and spiritually suffering to offer them comfort and healing, but as you know, I had a pretty limited understanding back then.

So my church spread into various congregations all over the region, and I eventually had to come back briefly to set Saul straight on several things (he became Paul, as you might remember reading). He was an absolute missionary dynamo and I wanted him on my team. As an omniscient deity, I was much more plugged into the ins and outs of the various cultural norms of the day, and saw that I had not really understood the proper place of women, as well as basic slave etiquette and some other things, so I had Paul course correct a little there. But more importantly, Paul did a simply outstanding job teaching the necessity of the cross, and I was frankly really impressed at how well he could articulate the meaning of my atoning sacrifice and resurrection. The cross, for me, was simply the most awful thing you can imagine, and then infinitely worse than that. The Romans (with plenty of encouragement from Jewish leaders) hung me up like a criminal, as a symbolic denouncement of everything I ever taught and as a warning to those intent on spreading my message to the world. But now I see that my death on the cross was so much more than that. Now it’s clear that my death was and is the only thing that could save all of creation. Really, in that sense, I had to die a terrifying death, there’s just no getting around it. Yes, the rulers of Judea and Jerusalem were frightened that their precious order was being disrupted by the least valued members of our society, but the important thing is really that because I died you can repent of your sins and come to live with me and my Father again. Speaking of my Father, I once asked him if it was hard for him to hand me over to the butchers like that, and his response was essentially, Yes, of course, but the fate of the entire universe was at stake so really it was kind of a no-brainer, no offense. Since this was shortly after my resurrection I had just remembered that I had always been my Father’s absolute favorite child (by a long shot, actually), so at first I felt confused that he was almost flippant about my tortuous death, but I also realized that as a member of the Godhead I had an enormous amount of responsibility, much more than my brothers and sisters. And besides, like he said, there was no other way to save everyone, so I’m content with with how things happened. I just wished that was more clear to me at the time.

Only a few decades after my death all my apostles and disciples had been killed or had otherwise died, but unfortunately there wasn’t really anyone to pass on the priesthood keys, and therefore to administer salvation, because virtually everyone was so wicked and corrupt. So I reluctantly had to close up my church and leave everyone to darkness and despair. Humans are stubborn creatures, though, and several of them still carried on. But without the keys! I know, what did they think they were doing? I certainly can’t blame them, though. The church was their only means of salvation, but also, they didn’t quite realize it was gone. Sadly, they got almost everything wrong, right from the start. The Nicene Creed? I still haven’t met anyone who understands all of it. And all these strange sacraments, and baptism was all wrong, and it wasn’t too long before several of them started worshipping my mother…I could go on for days. The innovations and revisions were mind-boggling. I didn’t have time to be too upset, though, because I had other followers on the American continent who were getting it right (well, off and on) not to mention billions of trillions of other worlds I had to oversee. Unfortunately, the Americans couldn’t get their act together either and not too long after the complete apostasy of the Old World, the New World followed suit.

At first I wanted to just give it a little time. Maybe let a couple generations pass away before starting fresh. But I quickly saw that in order for my church to have true lasting power and cover the whole Earth, I needed to wait until technology caught up with mass distribution (the printing press was still several centuries away) and even more importantly until true freedom of religion existed. In order for that to happen, we needed to wait for the Enlightenment, secularism needed to be invented, the United States needed to be founded, my chosen spokesperson needed to come through a particular line through many generations, etc. So I had to wait. I truly felt bad for so many generations living in benighted darkness (and I knew the back end was going to pile up with hundreds of millions of unbaptized souls, a logistical nightmare for future generations), but I couldn’t risk a premature restoration and having to start all over again. So they all had to live and die without the presence of the Holy Spirit. They still had my Light, of course, but as we know, that’s really a pittance compared to the Holy Spirit. It’s almost nothing in comparison. Just look at the insane things so many of them believed (the medical theories and practices alone were enough to give the devil nightmares), not to mention the squalor most of them had to live in. The Holy Spirit would have changed the game considerably, but as I said, the numbers just didn’t add up yet. It was difficult to watch, even from a distance.

But my chosen prophet was born at last in the early 19th century, and in honor of this the Final Dispensation, my Father and I decided to do things a bit differently, a little more dramatically. We rarely do this, but we decided to both appear to him at the same time. In hindsight it might have been better to wait until he was a little older, because we pretty much blew his mind. He was only 14 or 15, but we really rattled his cage. We wanted to make it a singularly powerful experience that could serve as the cornerstone for a new spiritual awakening, but I’m a bit embarrassed to say that it kind of messed him up for a while. At first, he couldn’t even get the details of the experience right, much less recognize its significance. It got so bad that I knew I’d have to severely limit my visitations, so eventually I sent an angel to give him simple instructions, which the angel made him repeat over and over again until he got them right.

I won’t bore you with the details of the next several decades; they’ve been meticulously researched and you can read about them at your leisure if you haven’t done so already. I would like to mention, though, that I was quite impressed with him as a religious innovator. We worked in tandem, of course, but I’d give him a commandment or even just an idea, and he’d really run with it, make it his own. He was a master at hybridizing various pieces of history, ritual, sacred text, and ancient mythos into a vast and beautiful network of interrelated teachings and rituals. I like to give my servants quite a bit of latitude and encourage creativity in implementing my plan for their particular times and cultures. That level of creative elaboration doesn’t happen so much anymore, but back in the day it was a sight to behold. (Also, I need to be clear that polygamy wasn’t me, not even a little bit. Generous latitude can have its drawbacks. That’s all I’m going to say about that here).

This is probably more than you needed to know, but I wanted to remove any doubt you might have that I evolve–(not change)! Because thinking I’m just rigidly the same at all points in time and eternity causes a lot of people consternation when they see clearly different, or additional, or revised teachings and practices that don’t match up with who I was and what I was doing in the past.

To put the most important example out there, consider my intense emphasis, in the present, on the traditional family. The family has always been important, both here and in the hereafter. But after my mortal sojourn, I was able once again to put all the pieces together, and I saw even more than I had in my pre-existent state. I saw that though the universe is a complicated place to be, in the end the family was all there really was. It’s all there really is. It’s all that really will be throughout eternity. Of course, various formulations of human relating mimic the true family in certain ways, and those families are sometimes adequate for basic social formation and learning, but they can’t do the work of the traditional family. So you can see how homosexuality–to take the major present conundrum–just doesn’t fit into that picture. Now, I didn’t make anyone non-heterosexual. A complex mix of genes, childhood rearing, moral environment, and personal experiences for some people just add up to same-sex attraction. And let me tell you, I really feel for these people. They are in a serious pickle. They’re burdened with something most of us simply can’t comprehend, and they have to deal with it their entire lives. I haven’t yet sorted things out organizationally in the next world (need to wait until after Second Coming and Millennium for that), but I imagine I’ll set things straight (no pun intended) at that point, maybe turn them into heterosexuals, or provide them with really nice, peaceful worlds where they don’t come into contact with anyone who might tempt them to break commandments. (Full disclosure: I don’t actually know if I can do the heterosexual transformation thing, I haven’t tried it yet; I don’t create things out of nothing after all)! But I’m pretty confident things will work out. We just all need to have faith. What is certain is that there’s no legitimate place for them as they are within the main Plan. It’s The Family or bust, mother, father, children, full stop. That’s what it all comes down to. That’s what I’ve been working toward for my entire existence, that’s what my terrible sacrifice was for in its entirety. We workshopped trillions of alternatives, but this was the only one that had a chance of real success. There’s just no other way to do this.

Do you see how evolution works in these instances? I started out condemning the seemingly eternal order of human existence, the kingdoms of this earth that were grinding the poor, despised, and different into powder. I taught a message of radical love and even more radical justice, a strange, anti-worldly logic where the first was last and the last was first, where sinners–sick and broken in mind and body–the poor, the outcast, the bearers of the relentless suffering and agony that is always their lot in all times at the bottom of every ladder, were seated first at the table, and kings and priests and the wealthy who loved their money more than their fellow beings–and who were the eternal guardians of this order–waited in the back.

That message was a good start, and all of the things I taught during that time remain relevant, but I was nevertheless living in desperate times and circumstances, as I’m sure you can understand. My vision was limited by my humanity. And the world wasn’t ready to comprehend the true majesty of the plan, which was and is achieving divinity within traditional families.

If I could go back and do it over, I would do things basically the same, but I would hope I could see enough to emphasize what is truly and eternally of the greatest worth. I would speak of the plight of the poor and oppressed, but I would speak more of the importance of teaching and encouraging righteousness within one’s own family. I would still preach against the wickedness of machinations of earthly kingdoms, but I would preach much more about personal purity and worthiness. I would definitely include concerns about the various injustices that the weak and marginalized and powerless are constantly subjected to as a matter of course, but I would teach far more about personal covenants and the crucial necessity of saving ordinances. Helping and loving others is basic, even though we often fail to heed these natural impulses. I would definitely highlight our need to improve our compassionate relations with others, but eternal marriage between a man and a woman, sealed by the holy priesthood, linking all generations together through other eternal marriages of men and women, is simply more essential in the grand scheme of things, especially when compared to our brief sojourn on earth. We will have all of eternity to perfect these other attributes and right these wrongs, but these latter generations must be more concerned with administering the sacraments and ordinances of salvation, which can only happen in mortality. We should help others where we can, but constant attendance to all the various kinds of suffering and injustices of the peoples of the earth would mean we would never have time to do the things of eternal importance. When we are forced to choose, as we are in these final days before I come again, that is how we can truly best help our brothers and sisters.

That was what I was missing during my earthly ministry. I was concerned for the eternal state of souls, but I was almost obsessively focused on brotherly love and injustice and would probably not have had these things made known to me at that time. You’ll notice that I never mention people struggling with same sex attraction anywhere in the gospels, not even as examples of the outcast and feared whom we are to love and care for, and on whose behalf we must seek justice. They simply weren’t on my radar. Don’t hold the writers of the Gospels accountable for that glaring absence. As only one mortal man, I simply didn’t have the bandwidth to include everything of importance, which becomes much more understandable when you realize that my people were being oppressed and killed at an alarming rate, and we had to do something to save them. In any case, no one was ready during that time to hear about the full culmination of the Plan, and those dark forces that would oppose it in the latter days. In those days, those struggling under the heavy burdens of same sex attraction were not even in the public eye. And with regard to the tolerance of same sex unions, we didn’t even have the language to describe something so unspeakable, much less the ability to comprehend teachings condemning it. People would have been so confused that the entire Plan would have been jeopardized. No, you have to start small, with teachings and principles that are easy to understand (if hard to enact), then build from there. Even if I had been of a mind to address the weightier things of the Gospel, I wouldn’t really have been able to say anything at all.

I hope you see, then, why my emphasis was on certain basic, simple things during my mortal life– just building blocks, really–compared to now, where I am in a position to reveal the rest of the Plan in its full majesty. Perhaps with that detailed context you can better understand how it might make better sense that I had to reveal to my servants that adopted children of people struggling with same sex attraction who have decided to formalize their sinful union could not be allowed to participate in the ordinances of my church. Of course they are free to attend and socialize and be loved by actual church members; they simply cannot participate in the ordinances of salvation until they are of legal age to do so and ready to denounce their caregivers’ lifestyle. I must apologize though, on behalf of some of my servants, who have provided a weak and perhaps even insulting explanation for this revelation. You can see precedents for weak explanations all over scripture. Please believe that they are almost never mine, and this one is no different. However, in keeping with my policy of not providing explanations for my revelations, I will not be providing the purpose behind this one either. Please don’t worry about those who for now are (hopefully only temporarily if they choose righteousness) excluded. I want to see them saved even more than you do. But now is not the time to truly understand how that could happen. The Plan must go forward, ever onward, and nothing must be allowed to stand in its way.

I’m sure I’ve gone on too long by this point. I would like to leave you with a final thought. I know it’s not easy for you to have faith in my church when it boldly teaches things that fly in the face of what you believe in the world in which you were raised to be acts of love and justice and tolerance. I won’t insult you by asking you to simply have faith and hold on, be obedient and my vision for the heavens will win out in the end no matter how your mind and heart tug in a different direction. You’ve been told that so many times, I know how ineffective it is. Just consider this: I was once like you as well. Full of loud moral courage, ready to take on the system, ready to fight for justice and radical love in a loveless and unjust world, itching to defend those who couldn’t protect themselves, righteously angry at imperial and religious authorities who do what authorities always inevitably seem to do. My heart was in the right place and yours is as well. I’m not saying those things aren’t important in their own way, tempered a bit and channeled in the right direction. But an eternal perspective reveals so much more. Compared to what I know now, I was, in all honesty, a bit naive. Not wrong, just….incomplete. I didn’t have the full picture. I didn’t know what was of lasting, eternal worth. I was focused on good things, to be sure, but I was not paying attention to the greater things. I was only concerned with this impermanent and fleeting world, about disrupting an order that, frankly, is never really damaged in any permanent way, no matter how we might rage against it. Yes there are people who need help, but there will always be people who need help. There will not, however, always be time to do the things that will last for eternity. There will not always be time to finally decide to be obedient, to be clean, to make all the necessary covenants. Our mortal lives are brief, and we will all die soon enough one way or another. Some of us will suffer more than others; I certainly did. That is simply the way of things. We must spiritually take care of ourselves and our families first, and then see where we can help those around us. Without that spiritual self-care, could we really be in a position to help those who are suffering so terribly? And if we did, what kind of help would we render? That which is temporary and insufficient, or that which will bless them for eternity? Think carefully on these words, my friends.

Your brother always,

Jesus

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