The current “prophet” and president of the LDS Church (aka “Mormon,” my former religious tradition), Russell M. Nelson, several days ago shared what he believes are five “truths” that are “absolute” in life. I agree with them in part, but I also disagree quite a bit too. I hope you’ll permit me to share with you some of my thoughts about it.
I’ll comment on each of the five points, as I did with the eight points of agreement of the nature of “Ultimate Reality” by contemplatives from eight of the world’s religious traditions. It’s an interesting comparison of lists of what the president of the LDS Church currently believes is “true” versus a group of deep practitioners of the world’s religions.
1. You are sons and daughters of God
I have written before about how this may be understood in a more universal and perennial way, even a scientific way, beyond the Judeo-Christian traditional language of “son/daughter” and “God/Father.” We humans, the Homo sapiens sapiens organism and species on this planet, are a kind of manifestation, emanation, expression of Ultimate Reality, the natural evolution of the cosmos itself. The Big Bang has unfolded itself into who we are today, here and now. As incarnations of this ultimate principle, the One or Singularity, we are like its “offspring,” the “Father” of the universe manifesting its cosmic Self in the particular diversities of creation, such as ourselves.
But Nelson also wanted to clarify a particular “distinguishing characteristic” about this “identity.” Unfortunately this is where I think his ideas become heavily dualistic, exclusivist, and pseudoscientific. He said to his audience of BYU students that God “chose” them to be part of today’s battle between “good and evil,” as if their unique persons existed prior to their conception, and God discriminated from all other souls in selecting them specifically to be a part of the LDS Church’s campaign against what it sees as “evil” and defending the Church today. It doesn’t seem to matter that “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34), that God doesn’t show favoritism for any particular “children,” he thinks they were “chosen” before they were even born to know right from wrong, and to defend the “right” as it exists exclusively in the LDS Church, and gather “God’s elect” into that church.
The kind of “chosenness” or “specialness” that is expressed about Israel in the Old and New Testament I perceive applies to all people, everywhere. We as humans are all “children of God,” and thus there is no scandal of particularity. Each and every person who has ever lived, lives now, or will live, is a manifestation of that highest principle of the cosmos, an incarnation of that Word, and this was the pattern that has been present since the beginning of time. All people are in this way “chosen” to come into existence now, and participate in this reality today. They didn’t exist beforehand, but are being “birthed” into reality, from Reality.
Defending the “right,” I perceive, is realizing and valuing this divine nature of every creature in all of God’s creation in this cosmos. No one is excluded from it, and no one tradition or church has any exclusive knowledge or privilege over any other. The gathering of the “elect,” as I see it, is the perennial pursuit of helping all people everywhere, even all sentient creatures, come into a knowledge of their true divine Self, as One in this cosmos, as holistic participants in this Reality, and therefore being compassionate and loving partners in that unitive society, that mystical “Body of Christ,” that One.
2. Truth is truth.
Some things are simply true [smile/laugh]. The arbiter of truth is God—not your favorite social media news feed, not Google, and certainly not those who are disaffected from the Church.-Russell M. Nelson
There are many things wrong with this, it seems to me. Truth is certainly not that simple, and pretending it is doesn’t help anyone. I’ve written many articles in recent days about the differences between relative and absolute truth, but Nelson does not seem to care to make such nuanced distinctions. What is true is true, and that is the end of it. End of story. Full stop. Do not pass “Go!” Do not collect $200.
It seems so simple to him, even though philosophers and theologians have been wrestling over the nature of truth for millennia, and there is a whole field of study that explores the nature of truth called alethiology. His simplistic denial of that wrestling seems to show extreme ignorance and perhaps even intolerance.
Truth is not simply truth. There are different kinds of truth, different levels of validity in truth statements, different degrees of relative knowledge, a whole spectrum of confidence in what we think actually is in reality (as in the scientist’s “confidence interval,” “margin of error,” and “uncertainty principle“). To say that truth simply is truth negates all of that, and essentially says that what is, is, and what is not, is not. It’s not that simple.
I agree with Nelson that the “arbiter of truth is God,” even that God is Truth itself in an ultimate sense, but Nelson and the LDS Church are not God. Sorry. No person, or organization, or church, or religion, or mystic, or Jesus, or Buddha, is God in God’s essence. There may be many manifestations of God, emanations of this Divinity, but there seems to be a hierarchy of godliness from that full Essence itself all the way down to the most dark empty vacuum of space (which is still paradoxically God’s manifestation). No person or organization is the essence of God. Not one, even if they are all in the hierarchy of this Ultimate Reality’s manifestation.
It’s particularly concerning when someone in this kind of authoritative position warns people to ignore or reject any voices who are “disaffected” from the organization. That produces a kind of echo chamber within which one cannot see the outside. It is circular. Only we have the truth, therefore listen to no one else, particularly those who have been inside the echo chamber and who have subsequently exited the building. This is dangerous ideology, a kind of authoritarianism and totalitarianism. It makes is seem that reading material like this very article is contrary to God’s will, and cannot be a source of any truth whatsoever. Do you really believe that? Have I said nothing “true” thus far, with any degree of validity? What do you think?
A former authority in the church might be a helpful quote at this point:
If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.-J. Reuben Clark, first counselor in the First Presidency 1934-45, 45-51, 59-61
In other words, challenges to the “truth” upheld by the LDS Church, even by those so-called “disaffected,” should be welcomed, not denied. If it is really true, then the church won’t be harmed by it. If it is not true, then it better be harmed!
Nelson references a talk by one of his predecessors, President Spencer W. Kimball, entitled “Absolute Truth.” This probably deserves its own commentary article, but for now I’ll just comment on the quote Nelson selected from it:
…absolute truth cannot be “altered by the opinions of men. . . . If men are really humble, they will realize that they discover, but do not create, truth.”-Spencer W. Kimball, “Absolute Truth,” BYU devotional address, 6 September 1977
I agree that Absolute Truth cannot be altered by the opinions of humans, but what I perceive this means is that all thoughts, concepts, opinions, doctrines, ideas, words, ideologies, philosophies, precepts, tenets, principles, theories, or so-called “facts” that are expressed by any human whatsoever is not absolutely true. All of those are not the Absolute Truth. None of them. Not one! No person knows the Absolute Truth as a concept in their limited human mind. It simply cannot be grasped that way.
We discover the Absolute Truth in mystical experience, in revelatory moments of contemplative union in that Ultimate Reality, in epiphanies of insight and understanding, in intuitive perception of the Real, in seership deep within consciousness, but these all go far beyond the rational intellectual mind, and even beyond the psychological construction of our “self.” And in order for the human mind to even think about such experiences, it must interpret or translate them into ideas. Those ideas are never the Absolute itself, as it is in itself.
Thus, even in the very first act of recalling or reflecting on one’s mystical experience, one is altering that Absolute Truth. It all becomes the “opinions of men.” We may discover the Absolute Truth, yes, but any expression of that Absolute will be our own personal cultural conditioned finite egoic “creation” or reflection, and therefore not that Absolute in itself. The Absolute is not created, that is certain, but our conceptions of that Absolute most certainly are! And they are therefore always relative, and the validity or quality of that relativity, how well those conceptions point at the Absolute Truth, will depend on the wisdom of the one putting it into conceptual forms, and just how sufficiently they have transcended their ego.
This quote from the wise modern mystic-philosopher Ken Wilber I think is quite relevant:
Question: But how is interpretation important in spiritual transformation or spiritual experience?
Ken Wilber: Give an example.
Q: Say I have a direct experience of interior illumination—a blinding, ecstatic, mind-blowing experience of inner light.
KW: The experience itself is indeed direct and immediate. You might even become one with that light. But then you come out of that state, and you want to tell me about it. You want to talk to me about it. You want to talk to yourself about it. And here you must interpret what this deep experience was. What was this light? Was it Jesus Christ? Was it Buddha-mind? Was it an archetype? An angel? Was it an alien UFO? Was it just some brain state gone haywire? What was it? God? Or a piece of undigested meat? The Goddess? Or a food allergy?
You must interpret! And if you decide it was some sort of genuine spiritual experience, then of what flavor? Allah? Keter? Kundalini? Savikalpa-samadhi? Jungian archetype? Platonic form? This is not some unimportant or secondary issue. This is not some theoretical
hair splitting. This is not some merely academic concern. Quite the contrary. How you interpret this experience will govern how you approach others with this illumination, how you share it with the world, how you fit it into your own self system, and the ways you can even speak about it to others and think about it yourself. And it will determine your future relation to this light!
And like all interpretations—whether of Hamlet or of the inner light—there are good and there are bad interpretations. And in this interpretation, will you do a good job or a bad job?
In other words, even if this experience of light was transmental, or beyond words altogether, still you are a compound individual. Still you are composed not only of this spiritual component—which is perhaps what the light was; you are also composed of mind and body
and matter. And mentally you must orient yourself to this experience. You must interpret it, explain it, make sense of it. And if you can’t
interpret it adequately, it might very likely drive you insane. You will not be able to integrate it with the rest of your being because you
cannot adequately interpret it. You don’t know what it means. Your own extraordinary depth escapes you, confuses you, obscures you,
because you cannot interpret it adequately.
Q: So interpretation is an important part of even spiritual or transmental experiences.
KW: Yes, definitely.-Ken Wilber, “A Brief History of Everything”
There is no human knowledge whatsoever of Absolute Truth without this kind of interpretation or translation. None of our knowledge of the Absolute is so pure, clear, definite, final, precise. None! No one has given the final word.
After quoting Kimball, Nelson then said:
Many now claim that truth is relative and that there is no such thing as divine law or a divine plan. Such a claim is simply not true. There is a difference between right and wrong. Truth is based upon the laws God has established for the dependability, protection, and nurturing of His children. Eternal laws operate in and affect each of our lives, whether we believe them or not.
I think here Nelson is referring to the postmodern philosophy which claims that all knowledge is relative, and therefore there is no Absolute either. And I agree with Nelson here, as I’ve written about recently. I think postmodern philosophy is correct about the relativity part of it, but I think it often doesn’t go far enough into the mystical, into an appreciation that there is actually an Absolute Reality, an Unconditional, a Real, beyond what we can ever know directly or intellectually, and that this is actually possible to experience in life, directly, beyond all mediation, and realize a deep relationship and identity with it.
So again, nuance is important. Truth is relative, the kinds of truth we deal with on a daily basis, but that doesn’t mean there is no Divine Absolute that is the Source of all morality, all law, all truth and beauty. We come to know right and wrong as we come into the contemplation of that transcendental Absolute, which is also pure Love and Oneness with all beings, and it is from that vantage point that we can choose between those things that are better than other things. From that ultimate Standard, we may make value judgments about the goodness or worth of some things over others. I wrote about this today in a post on Facebook:
“If we are amoral, it becomes immoral.”
—Russell Brand, paraphrasing Marianne Williamson
Amorality is lacking a moral sense, unconcerned with the rightness and wrongness of something. One might argue then how can mystics like Williamson quote Rumi, who said:
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.”
That seems like it transcends all right and wrong, and knows something beyond it, and thus doesn’t take sides. But just because it transcends all conventional ideas of right and wrong does not mean that it lacks a moral sense.
On the contrary, it has seen where all moral sense comes from! It has become one with the Source of all morality. Far from being unconcerned with rightness and wrongness of something, it comes to know the standard by which ALL things are judged to be right or wrong.
“There is no neutrality in spiritual matters. If you’re not actively trying to be good, you’re going to end up being bad.”
The problem comes when we think we know absolutely what is good or bad in every situation, under every condition, for every person in the world, a kind of “absolute morality.” No ego knows this. Not one! Only those who have transcended ego, who have laid down their ego, are able to so objectively judge as God.
I also translated this scripture from the apostle Paul.
All things are allowed by God/Reality, but not all things are helpful, practical, or worthwhile.
All things are allowed by God/Reality, but not all things are illuminating, uplifting, or constructive.-Paul, 1 Corinthians 10:23, BHT
All “laws of God” as we traditionally understand them as religious laws, are not the eternal Law or Truth in that Absolute Reality itself. The idea that any religious law, especially one’s own, is that Absolute Truth itself, is perhaps the cause of most of the dogmatic and fundamentalist sectarian problems in the world, the ideology that only I know what is right, and you don’t.
Those rare people who have come into the highest contemplation of the Truth may express basic “laws” that people may follow that will help them on their journey through life, until they too come into that contemplation, but these laws are always a “lower law,” and is not the eternal Law itself. The Israelites and Jews had the same problem with the “law of Moses,” thinking it was the ultimate Law. Jesus and Paul came along and said that no, the law of Moses was not that Law, that there was a higher Law-giver than the law, and that we could awaken to that Law-giver directly, and thus transcend the fixed laws and traditional conceptions of morality.
3. God loves every one of us with perfect love.
Yes, I agree. In fact, God is Love. This is not merely a metaphor. It is not just an aspect of God, a quality of God, or something God does on the side. God is Love, just as John said it was, twice (1 John 4:8, 16)!
What does that mean? It is hard to convey it in language. But one of the best ways I’ve interpreted to try and understand it is that the universe is ultimately one cohesive whole, it is all part of a single unitary process and unfolding, it is all a manifestation of that One or Singularity that began it all. It is radically One in its essence. And it is that oneness itself that is the reason that God is Love. Because all things subsist within God, as a manifestation of God or Ultimate Reality, all things are held within that unifying factor, within that all-encompassing embrace, inside that ontological being, inside that existential Ultimate One. And because all things are within that same One, their identity within it is also One. They are also One, and this existential unity between them is Love. We could talk about things like non-locality and entanglement as ways that physics has perhaps discovered this underlying unifying principle of the universe, but this is perhaps sufficient for now. The cosmos is One Great Whole, as Einstein noted, and even as Joseph Smith intuited, and it is only our dualistic perceptions of it that make it seem otherwise. But this is a kind of illusion. Love is our true nature, because Ultimate Reality is One, a Singularity, without division.
Where I disagree with Nelson is that this means that there is a flesh and bones human being out there somewhere that we call the “Father” that cares for us as a personal parent would. I think science has wholly ruled out that possibility. No. God, or Ultimate Reality, loves us because we are its expression, its manifestation. We are It. And it wants us to “return home” in the sense of the realization and awakening of that Divine nature in our consciousness, of who we are. This opening of consciousness to our true divine nature is the realization of “eternal life,” because it is the recognition that our fundamental identity is one with the cosmos itself, with Ultimate Reality, and therefore it will continue on indefinitely. We can come to realize “eternal life” here and now by realizing this Divine nature within us. That is how we “live with God forever,” by waking up to the reality that we are even now in God. The ego personality and finite body-mind is not eternal, rather it is our divine nature as the elements and energy and ongoing life and being and consciousness of this cosmos that is eternal. We come to realize the Christ nature is in us, this at-one-ment with the cosmos.
I love the scripture Nelson quoted from Paul:
…neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.-Romans 8:38-39
Nelson said that God’s “love for us is infinite!” but I don’t think he quite comprehends just how infinite infinite really is. Neither do I fully comprehend it. It is infinite! But I translate it to mean something along the lines of unending, without conditions, perfect, all-encompassing, eternal, full, complete, the totality, unqualified, without stipulations, without requirements, unbounded, unlimited, without laws that one must abide by. That Love really is Infinite! We can’t fathom just how infinite that Love really is, because our minds are finite, and so we think in finite terms.
Nothing will be able to separate us from that Love of God, because it is God its Self. It’s impossible to escape outside of God. There is no outside. There is nowhere else to go. Nothing, and Paul really meant nothing, can separate us from the Love of God, from all eternity to all eternity. That doesn’t mean that our precious ego will be able to stick around for eternity, however. The ego, or separate self identity and personality, is a kind of illusion in consciousness, it is our fallen nature, an error of perception. It is a construct of “self,” even the “natural man,” and even Mormon scripture tells us that this is an “enemy to God” that must be “put off” if we are to realize the Saint within (Mosiah 3:19; cf. Romans 8:7).
Divine law is incontrovertible! The same can be said of the law of gravity, and the laws of foil and lift that allow airplanes to fly. Each is an absolute truth. Doctors or pilots do not have the power to change those laws, but their understanding of them safeguards lives.
I think that’s true, in an ultimate sense. True divine Law is God or Ultimate Reality itself, and that cannot be denied, refuted, or broken. Reality cannot break itself. But the law of gravity is a human understanding of an ultimate principle of that Reality, and so I would not label it an “absolute truth.” I think that’s quite mistaken, and let me explain why.
We can observe how things behave out there in our subjective perceived reality, and see that there seems to be a pattern of how things fall to the ground, but the “law of gravity” as conceived by human minds is very much controvertible! It’s already been controverted several times in history. Prior to Newton there was no “law of gravity.” It simply had not entered the human mind. Things fell to the ground, yes, but there was no such thing as the “law of gravity” as we comprehend it. That law was first thought of by Isaac Newton to be a force that was exerted on things that made them fall toward the Earth. He couldn’t conceive of any other way that gravity might work, of why things fall to the ground. But Albert Einstein came along a few centuries later and said that gravity is not a force at all, but is actually because spacetime itself is curved in the presence of mass, and objects that appear to be falling are just following that curvature of spacetime. And even now, the problem is that we still do not understand gravity! Einstein’s theory simply doesn’t work at the smallest scales. There are minds today much more intelligent than mine that are trying to understand quantum gravity, seeking to describe gravity according to the principles of quantum mechanics, which so far we are unable to do, and this is currently one of the hardest problems in theoretical physics today if not in all of science. There! We just controverted the law of gravity! Well, actually that’s between Newton and Einstein and modern day theoretical physicists, very human minds trying to understand ultimates that are ultimately beyond our grasp to know in any ultimate way. The idea that we somehow know what the “law of gravity” is, and that this is an “absolute divine truth,” is so wholly inaccurate that it’s hard to put a word on it. The Truth is perhaps that we have no idea what gravity is. Not a clue! We know something about how it behaves, we can model the pattern, but we do not understand it, not fully. Far from it. We cannot change the underlying pattern in nature, that is true, but we do not understand it in any absolute way.
The problem is that Nelson thinks that we do understand these Ultimate Divine Laws, and that it is by our mindful and willful obedience to these understandings that we “progress toward exaltation.” No. They may help us along the way, yes, guiding us in our spiritual progression, but they will not and cannot bring us to exaltation itself. The author of Hebrews (likely not Paul) noted two millennia ago that mere obedience to such human understandings of law do not bring us to such perfection:
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming–not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.-Hebrews 10:1
In fact, that seems to be the message of most of the New Testament, of Jesus and Paul, which is why the Old Testament was not the end of the story. That law of Moses was not sufficient! In actuality, it was realized that this law was quite insufficient in our progression towards that Ultimate. It had to be controverted so that we could continue to grow.
4. The Lord Jesus Christ, whose Church this is, appoints prophets and Apostles to communicate His love and teach His laws.
Frankly, every other church, religion, and organization on Earth is not going to agree with this dogmatic, fundamentalist, and exclusivist claim straight out of the “one true church” tradition. I can’t think of one, outside the LDS Church and its subsidiaries itself who would agree with Nelson. And so then we are left to decide if Nelson is correct and if so, every other religious organization on planet Earth is wrong and incorrect.
Think about that for a moment…
Do you really think that every other church and organization on the planet, home to the other 7.7 billion people that live alongside us, are wrong?
If you are curious of my thoughts about “Jesus” and the “Christ” and the “Lord,” please see my reconstruction in this post.
The LDS Church is in the tradition of Christianity, just like every other Christian denomination, and particularly in the Protestant vein from which it emerged. But Christianity does not have a corner on the truth about God. Nelson might be reminded of another authority in the church not long ago who said:
We have been blessed with much knowledge by revelation from God which, in some part, the world lacks. But there is an incomprehensibly great truth which we must yet discover. Our revealed truth should leave us stricken with the knowledge of how little we really know. It should never lead us to an emotional arrogance based upon a false assumption that we somehow have all the answers— that we in fact have a corner on the truth. For we do not.-Hugh B. Brown, Church News, 24 May 1969, first counselor in the First Presidency from 1963-70
This is the kind of intellectual humility that it seems Nelson is lacking in making such absolutist statements. The idea that these men at the head of this church alone have been selected by Jesus Christ himself (having come back to life as a human being of flesh and bones and is now living somewhere “out there” in the cosmos), and who alone communicates God’s love and God’s laws to them so that people may progress toward God, is perhaps dogmatism and fundamentalism in one of its worst forms. It does not have good consequences or outcomes. It closes up minds, and blinds eyes, to the whole world that exists outside of the church. No. There are a host of other “ways” out there that people may find meaning and union in that Ultimate Reality we call “God.” Again, the LDS Church is not God. There is no need to “return” to the church, because that church is not what we are returning to. We are “returning” to God, an awareness and knowledge and consciousness of God, or Ultimate Reality, the Realty of our own fundamental essence and identity in this living cosmos, and the LDS Church does not have to have anything to do with that return. It is not the sole repository of truth.
Nelson speaks as if he knows God and Jesus Christ personally, and that his love is reflective of this knowledge. But that is contemplative knowledge, mystical vision, and I do not believe that Nelson, nor any of the other apostles currently at the head of the LDS Church, are contemplatives or mystics. They are businessmen, doctors, administrators, managers, organizers, scientists, and lawyers, very rational thinkers, if behind the times. They are perhaps priests in the priest/prophet paradigm. But they do not know God, and they slam the door in the face of anyone who would know God. You do not enter into that mystical ecstatic contemplative knowing of Ultimate Reality, and neither do you allow others who are trying to do so (Matthew 23:13). Jesus had a word for these kind of people: hypocrites. The “Absolute Truth” that you claim you are teaching is nothing of the sort, and it is damaging.
Nelson goes on to say:
It is precisely because we do care deeply about all of God’s children that we proclaim His truth. We may not always tell people what they want to hear. Prophets are rarely popular. But we will always teach the truth!
As I’ve noted above, it is impossible to proclaim Absolute Truth. No one has it, and so no one has the exclusive right to proclaim it. The ideology that anyone does is one of the most pernicious fundamentalisms of traditional organized religion that leads to a host of problems in society.
Yes, prophets are not popular, most particularly within the religious organizations in which they arise. Why? Because they always criticize authoritative power and control structures wherever they are found, both political and religious, even within their own religious institution. That is what Jesus himself was doing with the Pharisees, Sadducees, chief priests, elders, and scribes of his contemporary Judaism. Jesus was not at the head of the Jewish “church,” he was a lay Jewish preacher, teacher, mystic, sage, and reformer, who harshly criticized the religious authorities of his day, because they too thought they “proclaimed God’s only truth,” the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth, and anyone who dared to disagree with them, anyone who was “disaffected” from that orthodox point of view, were ostracized, marginalized, excommunicated, stoned, imprisoned, beheaded, and/or crucified.
I won’t comment on Nelson’s thought about same sex marriage here, as this essay is already long enough. But suffice it to say, I think he is mistaken. I think he and the other leaders of the LDS Church are on the wrong side of history, kicking against the pricks, are devoid of the true infinite Love of God, are hypocrites even on this issue of marriage, and I prophesy that their position will not hold. It will break, and is already breaking. Love wins. The young are fleeing traditional organized religion such as the LDS Church because of such dogmatism and traditional conservatism towards greater Truth and Love and Ultimate Reality.
5. You may know for yourself what is true and what is not by learning to discern the whisperings of the Spirit
Yes, which is what contemplative practices such as centering prayer and meditation are, which bring us into that awareness of Spirit, in order to contemplate the ultimate Reality of God. It is from that contemplation that we may know what is good and what is not, what is “true” insofar as it points us to Truth, and what is not. There is no such genuine contemplative practice in the modern day LDS Church. It has been lost.
I perceive that attendance at the temple, the most esoteric tradition in the church, is not such a practice. It does not facilitate the shift in consciousness in which contemplation occurs. Perhaps this is why Jesus cleansed the temple in his day, and why Paul and Stephen and others criticized that building “made with hands.” They pointed to the true temple as our very own bodies; that is where God lives (1 Cor. 3:16, 6:19). That happens through intense inner work, through practices which deeply engage our inner mind, consciousness, and psyche, so that we may see the deepest identity of who we really are. When the ego-mind falls away from consciousness, then we know Spirit, and then we also know our Self, which are One. Only that Spirit speaks the Truth, and lies not. All human speech is fallible, and not ultimately true, including Nelson’s and my own. Even that great prophet of the Old Testament, Isaiah, even he realized his lips were “unclean” (Isaiah 6:5).
Contemplative practice is not discursive prayer, as is taught in the LDS Church. It is often just the opposite—silent prayer. That means quiet. No talking, not even internal dialogue in the mind. You cease from all your ramblings, so that you may come to hear that “still small voice” within your closet, which speaks from the soul itself, from the deepest essence of consciousness, from the Spirit which is our Spirit. That’s where we may receive revelation upon revelation, insight upon insight, into the nature of our true Self identity, and the nature of Ultimate Reality, and nowhere else can it be ultimately known.
It’s been a long essay, but I hope it was valuable to you. I offer it to you, if it may be helpful in your spiritual journey.
I don’t claim to have all the answers either, or I too would be a hypocrite. I am a contemplative, and I have had deep mystical experiences of Ultimate Reality, and so I feel it is my responsibility to point out where I perceive religious authority is overstepping its bounds, where it has gone off the rails, where it has become moralistic, ritualistic, and legalistic, to help correct that error, prevent further damage, and to help liberate people in their search for Ultimate Truth, and even that they may themselves experience the ultimate mystical Mystery that is God, directly, personally, first-hand, within, which is where Jesus said the Kingdom was located (Luke 17:21).
It is your birthright as members of this cosmic Body to know your deepest Self, your Soul, your Christ nature, your divine nature, your Buddha-nature, your Atman, your higher Self, your true Self at-one in Love itself. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Don’t sell your birthright to any prophet or priest for a mess of pottage. And just like Jesus said that the Father was in him, and he was in the Father (John 14:11), so too are the “cosmos… within us. We’re made of star-stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself” (Carl Sagan). Realize the One in you! “Know thyself, and you will know the Universe and the Gods” (ancient Greek and Egyptian aphorism).
And if you do seek a confirmation from the Spirit that what Nelson has said is the “Absolute Truth,” and that my “conflicting voice” is wrong and should be shunned, I pray that you may not become a stumbling block to the rest of the people in this world as we strive to know ourselves deeply, love each other purely and infinitely, and live this life abundantly and fully (John 10:10). For this life is what we are here for; there is no other.
God has incarnated its Self as your very life and mine, here and now. You are the Beloved, and we are here to know this for ourself, for that is knowing God (John 17:3, 11, 21-23).