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Con Artists I Have Known
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This seems like an ideal place to explain my belief system. This is not a religious tract or an apology or a sermon, just the way things are when you are a Mormon and how it effects decisions in my life. It is called the Plan of Salvation, in present day it is called the Plan of Happiness, so as not to scare away people with a negative attitude about being saved.

In the beginning there was God. We call Him the Father because he had many spirit children; which included you and me. The Father said, “I have a plan by which you can be more like me and have children and creations of your own.”

“Not all of you will progress and develop at the same rate and some may fail but I will provide a way that you can learn by your mistakes and not be penalized if you make appropriate corrections while learning. I need an executive to head up the plan and be an example for others.”

One of the older sons, the Son of the Morning, volunteered and said, “Here, Father, send me and I will not lose a single soul, I will force them all to obey the laws they are given and all will succeed. It will be by my will that all succeed and I will take the credit.”

The second son, the Firstborn, said, “Send me and I will do thy will and the glory shall be thine. I will pay the price and lead an exemplary life and suffer pain and death to allow all to have free agency and progress as they should through all eternity.”

“I will send the Firstborn.” said the Father; and Lucifer, Son of the Morning, known as Satan, was very upset and convinced a third of the children of the Father to follow him and thwart the efforts of the others to advance.

None of the people who ever lived on the earth were part of Satan’s following for they were not allowed to have bodies and be a part of the competitive test. You and I, however, agreed to follow the Firstborn’s example and receive a body and learn to be more like God.

There were many advanced spirits like Michael and Gabriel, who were loyal and influential in selling the Father’s Plan. These became the leaders and prophets and scientists and inventors.

And Elohim, the Father, sent Jehovah, the Son, and those valiant spirits to prepare a place for the Plan to be enacted. And they designed all things at the spiritual level before it was vested in matter. A planet was selected from the debris of space and was prepared in an intricate way to support all forms of life and to have great diversity and beauty.

And Michael became Adam; the first male to take on the body composed of the elements of the biosphere designed to be a starting place for the Plan. A female was also introduced into the garden to represent the female spirits participating in the Plan or test. All prior memories were erased before gaining an earthly body. The conditions were, “Enjoy yourself, get acclimated, and you can’t do anything wrong here except chose to partake of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Once you do that, you will be cut off from this place and your test will begin and last until I call you back; and you will surely be called back, that is the part of the Plan that ends your earthly test.”

The role of Satan became that of adversary; and so when Eve was smart enough to reason with Satan, she partook of the forbidden fruit and convinced Adam that he had better do likewise if they were going to do this together. And so they left their perfect staging ground under direction of the Father and the Son and went out to more challenging circumstances that required work and decision making. Messengers were sent to help them as needed. Their new task was to multiply and replenish the earth to enable others to gain bodies and be tested. In later generations, there were prophets to guide them and keep them challenged. There were also problems, thanks to the efforts of Satan to discourage and mislead them. He was the first to combine the teachings of men with the revealed word as a matter of confusion. There were many dispensations in which the traditions and the scriptures were cleaned up and added upon. Abraham, Moses, and Isaiah were some of the valiant spirits that were sent as prophets and leaders. The descendants of Abraham were identified by God to be a covenant people and be under more strict requirements. These families or tribes became the Jews, Levites, and others.

About 600 BC, a family of the tribe of Joseph were instructed to gather some fundamental scriptures and flee Jerusalem prior to its destruction. They built boats and migrated to the western world somewhere near Central America.

Jerusalem was subsequently defeated and plundered and the records were destroyed and the inhabitants were carried off to Babylon as slaves.

The family from the tribe of Joseph thrived until the time of Christ when they had prophets who foretold the signs of His coming and preached the fundamentals of repentance. Jesus appeared to them after his death and resurrection and reiterated those fundamental teachings he had given near Jerusalem. Jesus told them that they were the other sheep he had talked about that must be visited and hear the word. These people had prophets who recorded these happenings and hid them away until the early 1800s when they were delivered by a heavenly messenger to Joseph Smith, the American Prophet. This became the last dispensation. This, then, is the beginning of Mormonism. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints began to grow, suffer persecution, and made an exodus to the West to fortify the western boundaries of the United States. I am a descendent of these people.

Things peculiar to these people are dietary laws, lay ministry, and restoration of the priesthoods of Melchizidek and Aaron (Levites). Continuing prophesy and revelation are given to the Church as a whole, and to individuals as needed. Every worthy male is ordained to the priesthood. The Prophet holds the keys to sealing such that husbands, wives, and children may be sealed to each other for this life and for all eternity. These sealings are done in the temples built for those purposes. In the early days of the Church, some men were asked to take responsibility for more than one wife. Some non-Mormons thought that was reason enough to persecute and kill the Mormons even though the country had not made any law prohibiting such a practice. I am descended from Erastus Bingham who had four wives, but only bore children by his first wife. His son Erastus Jr. had only two wives but 25 children.

The covenants of a covenant people are made in the temples and those temples can only be entered by those who have demonstrated that they are keeping the commandments; which include Church service, tithing one tenth of their income, and living a chaste existence. The specific agreement is that you shall have no sexual relations with anyone but your lawfully wedded spouse (opposite sex).

Young people do not date until they are 16 years of age; and necking and petting are highly discouraged as dangerous challenges to chastity.

Dietary laws are advice that we do not use tobacco, coffee, tea, or alcohol. Use whole grains and limit our meat intake. This we call the Word of Wisdom and is given in the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the list of revelations of God to the Prophets of our times.

Repentance and forgiveness are important principles to understand and help us clear the slate and not be fearful of judgment and guilt.

There are no infidels. We are all children of God and should treat everyone with love and compassion, even our enemies.

Mormons keep meticulous records and organize themselves so that every member is visited by two priesthood bearers and two relief society members every month. Since no one is paid for their Church service, everyone is called to do some task by someone higher up in the organization and anyone may be called to move up in the organization. For the most part, because of my special talent for dancing, I was called to be dance director for the youth organization called, at that time, the MIA (Mutual Improvement Association).

The concept of the afterlife is based on revelations from the modern prophets as well as the ancient scriptures that many other Christians accept. All men (and women) are immortal and will be resurrected, that is part of the plan attributed by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Some churches understand this part as ‘saved by Grace’ i.e., it is a gift. The other part is a judgment based on what we have done with the cards we have been dealt. This is not so much as a ‘pass/fail’ judgment as an opportunity to progress to many degrees of reward based on our ability to love, learn, and create. Some people will not see much difference between their life on earth and the afterlife. Some will experience the joy of returning to the Father with eternal progression leading to being like Him. Much of our progression depends on correcting our errors as we go along and being clear on how we deal with others. Redemption is what we ask for, forgiveness is what we receive, based on how we can repent and forgive others.

Upon these principles I have tried to live my life, except for the 22 years in the middle. That’s why I needed redemption.