Saturday, July 31, 2010

Baptism

My nephew got baptized today. My sister gave a talk during the proceedings in which she talked about Christ's baptism. She pointed out how after Christ's baptism there was "a voice from heaven declaring that He was Gods son". She commented how if we are following Christ each of us should seek the same path, and to hear from our Father declaring we are His Son/Daughter.

What a thought.  I've attended who knows how many baptismal services, and heard who knows how many talks on baptism and Christ's baptism, and yet this was the first time I've heard someone say that during a baptismal service.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mormon 8:38 Ouch!

I happened across this verse and it really spoke to me. 
Mormon 8: 38 O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who
sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies—because of the praise of the world?
The preface to this verse from the chapter summary says "The Nephite record shall come forth in a day of wickedness, degeneracy, and apostasy." Pretty straight forward, it describes the state of things when this book is available.  So what are they talking about...Pollutions? Like does he mean oil spills? Smog? Industrial waste?  The air quality in Salt Lake City has been truly disgusting lately.  Maybe he's talking about that?

He says "Ye" so he's referring to people and/or their behavior as being the pollutants.  Not so much industrial waste.  Their (our) behavior pollutes the holy church of God.  Then he says: Hypocrites.  Of course that must be referring to someone else, I mean who of us ever says one thing and then does another? Yikes... 2 words into this verse and I'm already getting the idea Mormon is writing to "Mormons".  "Ye teachers" Hum.... seems someone in a position to teach others is not doing so with the Holy Spirit's guidance. What teachers is Mormon writing to?  Is he writing to professors of religion who he knows will never read the book?  That would seem silly. "Who sell your selves for that which will canker"?  Dictionary says canker means: Something that corrodes, corrupts, destroys, or irritates.  Do we every sell ourselves for worldly goods?  Do we as a Church sell ourselves?  Do we sell out for things like worldly honors?  Top end shopping malls?  And praise of the world?  Geeze, maybe Mormon is talking to Mormons.

Damn... not only are the accusations coming in full fury, but now people who are teaching are selling themselves for things which corrode, corrupt destroy and irritate. Seems Mormon is identifying a transaction in "The holy church of God" in which something of infinite worth is being traded for something of no real eternal value, in fact the exchange corrodes both parties.  This is vanity at it's best.

Now it gets real nasty. "why have ye polluted the holy church of God". Oh boy.... now it becomes apparent he has been talking to people that are supposedly part of the Church of God.  Who's that?  He asks why his audience has polluted said church.  It would be difficult to pollute something they were never a part of and didn't interact with.  So it's more and more sounding like people on the inside, or people claiming to be on the inside.

"Ashamed to take upon us the name of Christ"?  Who's ashamed to do that?  Apparently people who profess to be part of the Church are these same folks. That can't be right can it? This must be referring to all those other people in the world who don't read the book of Mormon. Does taking upon us his name maybe mean something beyond saying I'm Mormon?  Oh wait, that would be taking upon us Mormons name.  Maybe that's part of the problem.  Maybe it could also mean people are culturally religious but ashamed to take upon them Christ's role, as one of His disciples.

We'd better be careful how we take these words from Mormon.  

What would you do?



A show on ABC caught my eye. It's called "What Would You Do". Hidden cameras filmed pre determined scenes to watch and discover what people will do in situations that are pretty interesting. One scene was a paid Hispanic actor (complete with makeup that looked like blood and bruises) getting beat up by 3 other guys who were also paid actors appearing to discriminate taunt and physically abuse because of his race. The hidden cameras were watching to see who would stop and help. Some people did, but the majority did not. Other examples were a supposed infomercial where the people were offered 75 bucks to advocate a hair growth product they thought was real. They were asked to tell the camera increasing lies, to see how far they would go to promote something they had never used and that was revealing it's self to be dangerous. They were asked to promote it even after hearing additional concerns like it "causes cancer", or watching another person's hair fall out (which was another staged actor who had fake hair planted where she supposedly put some of the product). They were asked to say that the product had a money back guarantee even though the guy at the camera said it didn't but that they should say it did anyway. The investigation showed who would just go along with the increasing stupidity for the 75$ pay out. Most of the people went along with most of it, some stopping as it became more absurd.

Makes you wonder. What would you do? Would you stop a fight that was clearly racially motivated and grossly unjust? Stop a thief? What if you didn't know the person? Would you still stand up for someone you didn't know, would you stand up for what is right? Would you promote a product with just a few lies? Is it ok to dig a pit for your neighbor, take advantage because of ones words? Lie a little? Are we inclined to stop and help one in need when that internal nudge prompts us? We are accountable for our acts, not the other persons motives or reasons or how they respond to our gesture. The bum on the street is a test of our charity, we're not accountable for what he/she does with our gift. We can show charity regardless of what the other does or does not do. Psychological experts say we look around us at others to see what is the "correct" thing to do. Group behavior is often very influential on an individual. But the group is not often correct. Something to think about.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mormon 9:20 Miracles and the God in Whom We Should Trust

Mormon 9:20 says

And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust.

In case any of us were wondering, here Mormon tells us about as clearly as is possible why miracles stop. Dwindle, what a good word. The dictionary defines dwindle as:
1. To become smaller and smaller; shrink; waste away.
2. To fall away, as in quality

Doesn't take an English Scholar to realize Moroni is saying that folks are wasting away in unbelief. Wasting away..... like parts of us are disintegrating and wasting away, just like the word implies. What would cause that? Ive heard that phrase used many times in reference to the body not getting enough nourishment, it's "wasting away". More on this next paragraph.

Dwindle also in this verse seems like a correct belief is shrinking, hence it becomes unbelief. The amount of light is shrinking, it's getting smaller. Restored truths get lost. Manuals get smaller. People forget about or never talk about important truths, they start relying on others, relying on people they shouldn't for salvation. Neglecting restored truths leads to darkening of the mind. D&C 84:54–57.) Nothing wrong with basics, but how fun is to be limited to baby food, or milk only, and have no initiative to gather food for a persons growing faith and needs? Pretty soon a basic only diet would make everything else taste uncomfortable, almost unable to be digested.

Anyway then Moroni says miracles cease because of departing from the "right way". So, taking a departing flight somewhere other than the correct destination. A pseudo paradise which will always be among the alluring destinations up for purchase. But the best phrase and the one I actually wanted to say something about was the last part. "And know not the God in whom they should trust" He says "They" so he doesn't include himself in the "miracle-less" group. Not knowing the God in whom to trust he says is a direct cause. Apparently there are folks claiming to follow God but in reality don't know the God in whom they are supposed to trust. Obviously that is a problem. A false God. Some definitions of Repentance that I quite like are "Re-turning to God" or "Returning or gaining a correct understanding of God and ourselves" "A correct view of God" "To turn around" "Stop the incorrect, and then pursue the correct course" And since all of us need repentance, we should be aware that Moroni is probably helping us to identify a false God(s) in our lives. In that case this guy deserves our love and gratitude I think. Repentance is a positive thing that the scriptures say will bring God's miracles.

A false idea about God or ourselves obviously is a sure fire way to make miracles cease. But Moroni, knowing his audience, is not speaking to people who aren't going to read his book. So who is he talking to? Well that's not that difficult of a question.

Having facts and data "about" the God in whom they should trust is different than knowing that same Being. Not knowing someone seems pretty simple, it's like they have never met. They may know facts and history and have heard other peoples testimony, but that is different than "receiving the testimony of Jesus". (D&C 76: 51, 74, 82, 101). D&C 93 verse 1 lets us know God is available. No one need let another stand in between. (1 Tim. 2: 5)

No wonder dwindling in unbelief leads to a lack of miracles. Gaining light is what the scriptures say is the good stuff, (D&C 50: 24), dwindling? Wasting away?... not a good path to be on. The perfect day is the result of the first way. I hope to say things that have light.

A few thoughts.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hidden in plain sight

My coworker knows I like astronomy so occasionally I'll get an issue of a previous months astronomy magazine put in my box. Today's had a very beautiful picture of a nebula that an amateur astronomer had found. The title read "Hidden in plain sight". Something in plain sight had alluded all others until this amateur came along.

I loved that title. It reminded me of the times in life when something obvious had alluded me. There it was, in plain sight, observable by everyone yet completely hidden.  A few examples of this came to mind. One deals with different levels of communication. There are messages communicated every time anyone interacts. There are so many messages that communication experts often say "you can't not communicate". It's right in front of us, but without fail most of the communication either isn't noticed, understood, or seen with enough objectivity to get the message. It's especially apparent in dating. Almost a secret language exists. Once you see it, then it's obvious but it's also hidden in plain sight.

That astronomy magazine reminded me that the scriptures were intentionally written just that way.  They are written so that things are truly hidden in plain sight.  It's up to the reader to humbly read the scriptures and obtain the hidden, but obvious insight.  Funny that often scriptures and Christ himself refer to peoples blindness. On occasion it does deal with a person's physical eyes not functioning properly. But most of the time it's a different form of blindness. A kind of blindness where truth is not seen.  It's there, but not seen.  I"m amazed again and again how clear the scriptures are, it's often so easy to miss what has been in plain sight all along. I love it when such things appear. The allusive obvious.

Read the scriptures with that in mind and see what may jump out that was actually there all along.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What can we rely on?

Read an interesting scripture last night in Moroni. Chapter 6 verses 4.

4 And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.

After they were baptized AND were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost they were numbered among the people of the Church of Christ.  That's different from what we do now.  We have the baptismal ordinance, then we confirm them a member, then we "admonish" them to receive the Holy Ghost.

It's far more helpful to read the Book of Mormon outside of our current traditions.  Otherwise we miss the entire message.

In Moroni's time it was the Church of Christ. Baptism was something for elders priests and teachers 1 And now I speak concerning baptism. Behold, elders, priests, and teachers were baptized; and they were not baptized save they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it.

How did they become an Elder, priest, or teacher yet were not baptized?  We as a church don't even ask these questions because we tend to project our current religion onto the Book of Mormon.  It was supposed to be the other way around.  The verse teaches that baptism was administered to those who brought forth fruit.  We of course in our day assume that means the same thing as passing an interview.

The last part of verse 6 I found very interesting. "relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith". Relying alone upon the merits of Christ.... That's pretty clear. You'd almost have to cut and paste different text over that text to to misunderstand that phrase. They didn't rely on an institution, a prophet, a leader, or anyone else. Who was relied on is unmistakable, it was not the church organization, although they formed part of it because of their "fruits". Membership in the church didn't save them and it won't save us either.  Hence the only thing they relied upon was Christ.  It was Christ, His merit.  No doubt they would rightly follow the voice of The Spirit, as well as heeding prophet's inspired words.  Of course they would repent, live righteously, and meet together for obvious reasons.  Of course they would sustain their leaders.  What I think is important is they didn't rely on any of the many possibilities, which historically is all too common, they relied alone on Christ.

I think Moroni has inspired words. They ring true. I imagine such folk who rely alone on the merits of Christ will form part of the Lords church, not just because of membership status or family tradition, or calling, but because of who they are, and who they become because of Christ.  That's what defines the "church".  The "Church" has nothign to do with a corporation.  It's correctly defined in scripture in D&C 10:67 Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.  The people are the Church. 

Interesting. The Book of Mormon is very clear I've noticed. The words are about as clear as you can put into English.  But yet it's still possible to read them, and have modern mental pictures which are completely different from what the verse is saying.