Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A short parable

Trying something very different today for a blog post. A parable of sorts. I don't claim to be a writer. I hope this will be interesting for those who choose to read.

Two citizens of the same community and culture had lived near each other all their lives. Both thought it important to follow God. The culture seemed to support their desires. One decided to accept that everything his leaders taught was true. The other chose to accept and follow only the truth in everything he was taught.

The citizen who chose to accept only truth had to develop various capacities, character, and spiritual gifts, only the Spirit could confirm the truth. This often proved difficult as discernment became necessary, and as the search for truth expanded far beyond his own culture. Yet truth brought light, light brought intelligence, and it grew brighter and brighter until the perfect day. The other citizen was able to relax, go with the mainstream, and trust that if there was something important he needed to know someone would surly tell him. After all, as long as all appeared well in the community, as long as he had the truth there was little reason to be concerned. This freed him to focus on other things. Occasionally some culturally misfit folks came along who seemed to dare to upset things and make afraid, but since they had no authority it didn't matter.

Both citizens lived to a good old age. The one citizen met the Lord during his life who personally ministered to him, he died firm in the hope of a glorious resurrection. The other felt privileged to have seen in person great men of his day, he died firm in the hope that none of his leaders would ever lead him astray. Both citizens left a record for their posterity. Truth lives on, and such experiences and lessons live on as a comfort and source of inspiration for many.

Some folks accept everything they are taught as true, others search for truth in everything they are taught.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sacrament and Baptism



What's the Issue 

It's now considered a truth beyond question that through the sacrament we renew the covenants we made at baptism. Many teach that the sacrament is like a re-baptism. I realize the depth of this idea in all of our heads. And I know it may therefore be difficult for many to consider other possibilities seeing how long the view has been ingrained in us. But hear me out, I think this is a topic and discussion worth having. Even if you disagree.

The scriptures say the sacrament (both 3rd Nephi 18, and NT accounts in Luke 22, Matthew 26) is to remember the Lord directly, His blood and body. Also to witness we will remember Him and keep His commandments. We all know that based on the sacramental prayers, and it says so directly in the scriptural account of when the sacrament was instituted. Something the scriptures do not say is that the primary purpose of the sacrament is to renew prior covenants or baptism. Of course that's not a bad thing doing during such moments...it's just not what scriptures clearly say is what the sacrament was for.

Another part of the issue comes to the surface when we read what the Lord says directly after telling us what the sacrament was specifically for. Found here 3 Nephi 18:11-13. 

11 "And this shall ye always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name; and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you. 12 And I give unto you a commandment that ye shall do these things. And if ye shall always do these things blessed are ye, for ye are built upon my rock. 13 But whoso among you shall do more or less than these are not built upon my rock, but are built upon a sandy foundation; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon them, they shall fall, and the gates of hell are ready open to receive them."

Verse 13. "Whoso among you shall do more or less than these are not built upon my rock".... More or less than what?  Likely more or less than what was just said in vs 11 which were instructions regarding the sacrament.

When the sacrament becomes primarily about baptismal renewal it is a drifting away from what the Savior clearly taught was the purpose, and intent of the ordinance?  There is another important area of this to address which is what is meant by "baptismal covenant".  So as to stay on topic here, that post is separate, link here.

The Background

The official Guide To The Scriptures says this at the end of the section on the sacrament: "Through this ordinance, Church members renew their baptismal covenants." There is no citation for the idea, it's just stated like that.

Then this is an excerpt from the official index of topics from LDS.org. "Part of this ordinance is a promise to remember Him always and a witness of individual willingness to take upon oneself the name of Jesus Christ and to keep His commandments. In partaking of the sacrament and making these commitments, Church members renew the covenant they made at baptism (see Mosiah 18:8–10; D&C 20:37)."

Neither Mosiah 18 nor D&C 20 support the notion of the sacrament being a baptismal covenant renewal. In fact they don't mention anything like it. They are however wonderful baptism scriptures. The index and guide of course do state the primary purpose of the ordinance. However then those parts that I bolded present a curious addition to the ordinance and it's focus. Again, nothing wrong with using such moments to consider baptismal covenants. However for many that has sort of evolved into it's primary purpose. The problem with that is the scriptures said the purpose of the ordinance was something else.

I've read through dozens and dozens of talks that say that we renew our baptismal covenants during the sacrament. None of them give any citation or quote, or basis for it. I realize everything in the Gospel can connect at deep layers, and the meaning of the sacrament and baptismal covenants are obviously related. I get that. But this "common wisdom" has a vague and unspecific origin. It's not in the scriptures. I've had to dig around to try and find out where the idea came from. This is what I found.

President Brigham Young wrote in 1857 about the sacrament and the members of the Church, “The bread and cup [are for] a renewal of their covenants." (as quoted in Teachings of Pres Kimbal p509)

Elder James E. Talmage wrote in Articles of Faith (pg 149): "From the scriptural references already made, it is plain that the sacrament is administered to commemorate the atonement of the Lord Jesus, as consummated in His agony and death ; it is a testimony before God, that we are mindful of His Son’s sacrifice made in our behalf...in the hope that we may ever have His Spirit to be with us. Partaking of the sacrament worthily may be regarded therefore as a means of renewing our covenants."

These possible origins don't mention baptismal covenants. Elder Talmage's conclusion that the sacrament "may be regarded therefore as a means of renewing our covenants" is reasonable. In fact I like the idea. However, that STILL is not what the Savior himself said the sacrament was primarily for.

The whole idea of sacrament equaling baptismal renewal seems to have developed by a slow process that went step by step from one to the other. First partaking of the sacrament was done in remembrance of the Lord's blood and body, and always remembering Him. Then Second it became about covenant renewal. Third it became specifically baptismal covenant renewal. And finally it developed into what is is now, which is that the two are interchangeable, you can wash your sins away as if being re-baptized each week by partaking of the sacrament.

And that leads us to why this matters.

Why It Matters

I think the biggest casualty in this development is the loss of the communal nature of the sacrament. Most of us forget it was a meal. By emphasizing the covenant renewal aspect, the other specifically stated aspects of the supper have faded. As with anything in this world, understanding of truth is subject to erosion.... belief can morph into unbelief without anyone noticing, unbelief then becomes a tradition, then common practice, and then its accepted without question.

Re-baptisms were common during early days of the church. During those periods of church history members would often participate in another baptism, sometimes entire congregations would. It was also common for members to submit requests for re-baptism to the local leader. This began to be discouraged and so it died off with the passage of time. Such things are unheard of now days. But why? Well, as any good Mormon will tell you, it's because the sacrament is just as good. But what if that was our own invention?

I'm starting to wonder if this idea that the sacrament renews baptism may in fact stem in part from the church’s wish to discontinue re-baptisms. Now isn't that interesting? In order to do that it would be necessary for a development to occur regarding the understanding of the sacrament. People would need to infer that the sacrament is just as good as a re-baptism and viola, a new theology and justified procedure develops overnight. The whole matter is riddled with problems.

Common sense will tell you that of course being re-baptized is not the same as partaking of the sacrament. If you are distanced from the church or require or need re-baptism for whatever reason, you can't just take the sacrament. You actually need to be re-baptized.

Back to the scriptures. Vs 13 quoted above warns that when we do "more or less" than what was instructed we are told this amounts to us building our foundation on sand, which will fall. I pose this post as food for thought. I'm not saying anything church-wise should change, or what we're taught or read in the index about the connection between our baptism and the sacrament is wrong. This post is for individual reflection.

If we assume and repeatedly teach an ordinance's purpose is one thing (renewing prior baptismal covenants), when the Savior and the prayer clearly say it was actually something else ("eat, drink, this do in remembrance of my body, and blood", "always remember Him") do we risk doing more (and at the same time less) than what he said? 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Simplicity


2 Corinthians 11:3-15
But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3 KJV)

Just because something is simple doesn't mean it's not incredibly profound. To quote my friend mike today : "
The main thing about being a Christian is to see that the main thing remains the main thing." There are so many other things a person can focus on, so many other doctrines, other people, so many other causes, so much other complexity that what was once simple has taken on a life of it's own, it can become even something only available to a select few with positions of responsibility or lots of education. Salvation can drift into being viewed as something you do, or can earn, rather than something Christ offers. (Alma 22: 14)

One thing I consistently notice when I have the chance to sit in on primary with the little ones is how simple things are. Some people call this "basic". And true some of it is basic, but lots of it is as profound as the person cares to explore, yet it's also simple. Sometimes a sophisticated, academic, or adult approach misses things that are better grasped by the simplicity of a child's mind. Hence Christ's words for all of us to become as a little child. (
3 Ne. 11: 37-38)

We learn from Paul in Corinthians that the serpent beguiles with subtlety, but a unique kind, the kind that corrupts away from simplicity that is in Christ. But it's subtle, probably some kind of distraction maybe by a bunch of "good" things, soon worship and actions towards Christ may become more and more indirect and or complex maybe even rule based, pretty soon Christ is complex, it's hard to imagine coming to him, or having a relationship with him. He can become replaced by rules, procedures, and strivings that can drift away from what was once simple and full of truth and light. Christ said " I am the way, the truth and the life". How simple, how true. Why look to anyone or anything else? Nothing else truly satisfies, but He is enough. As on the road to emmaus, His presence causes our hearts to burn within us, not always because of outward appearance, but because his words are life and truth.
Luke 24: 32 And they said one to another, did not our aheart bburn within us, while he ctalked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Drunkards of Ephraim



Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine! (Isa. 28: 1)

Many members of the church I know will proudly claim they are from the tribe of Ephraim. The reason they know that is due to being a member of the Church and having received a Patriarchal blessing. Isaiah speaks to the drunkards of Ephraim.  But we'd say, Mormons don't drink, so this scripture MUST be speaking to some unknown bunch of Ephraimites who are disobeying the Word of Wisdom.  Because we Mormons differentiate ourselves on not drinking alcohol yet Isaiah uses an intoxication analogy anyway. Something about that is very funny. The verse talks about wine. How interesting that people are both avoiding wine and drunkenness, yet still drunk. This is in the book of Mormon a few times as well indicating who the latter day intended audience includes. (2 Ne. 8: 21). Everyone is being warned.

Perhaps we should consider not only the liquids we consume but the symbols Isaiah is talking about. If not physically inebriated then what are these folks from Ephraim in the latter days drunk on? What would cause in a spiritual sense the effect you can see when someone drank too much alcohol?  Drunkenness causes loss of balance, running into things, slurred speech, poor decisions and passing out to name only a few. So could Isaiah be saying that spiritually our senses have become dulled? The inner ear is responsible for balance, in other words our "ears" don't hear the word of the Lord and thus we loose our balance?  Could Isaiah be implying our speech is spiritually slurred in that we say we speak in the name of Christ but in reality don't, we just say the words because everyone else does. Could Isaiah be saying we are not balanced on the truth and are falling over?  Could it be that we balance on what we are taught, and trust our foundation built upon our leaders?  A drunks vision is typically blurred.  Could Isaiah be implying our "eyes" can't discern the truth?  Making it so we don't see visions, we don't see angles, and no one is seeing the Lord as has been done in times past?  Are we drunk in that we're not seeing spiritual reality, therefore we're running into things and stumbling?  Maybe because our eyes are more focused spiritually on images of men in suits and ties rather than the Lord?

Carrying on this analogy the intoxication leads to passing out. Fainting. In a symbolic sense spiritually loosing a lifeline to heaven causes us to faint (or fall asleep..as the case may be).  Relying too much on others to receive revelation could be one cause. We trust that if the Lord had something to say he would be telling other people who in turn are supposed to tell us. We trust that no leader will lead us astray. These kinds of maladies are equated by Isaiah to being "drunk".  What an interesting and apt description a few lines from Isaiah gives us.

Ephraim has great promises offered to them, granted they aren't passed out. Only way to know if you are, or aren't in that state is a direct personal connection to heaven.

The one Leper (continued from last post)


Lepers as I understand it in the society in which Christ lived were required to live away from the city and regular dwelling places of the people. They were banished so to speak. But there was a Law of Moses ordinance for those healed from the disease that was available to them. Thus according to the law they could be clean and be allowed to come back and be a part of the community. (Leviticus 14) The ordinance included many things, one portion was one of two birds was killed but the other was released out into the open to be free.

I imagine that the one leper who went back to Christ and worshiped went and participated in the law of Moses ordinance.  This would fulfill the normal cultural expectations, and fulfill the religious and legal duties that were upon him.  Although unnecessary from one point of view, it would still have been the correct thing to do.  He who gave the law had pronounced him clean, but to be re-accepted into the society they probably would have wanted him to participate in the ordinance.  As a matter of correct procedure so to speak.

More importantly imagine the thoughts and feelings this one leper would have had while participating in the ordinance.  Doing so with a changed heart, with deeper insight. Imagine how much of an act of worship that would have been for him. Those who have faith in Christ tend to have lives that are a type of Him, they fit a pattern. Christ was baptized, He went through the ordinance like everyone has to, He submitted to the ordinance even as the Son of God. This one Leper, having recognized the Master and Priest I would imagine would have followed in the pattern of going through the ordinances, and in so doing would worship in a very unique and informed way. A completely different experience, He likely saw, heard, and understood many more things.

I'm sure the other 9 went through the ordinance also, the scriptures don't tell any more of the story other than they went away and were cleansed.  So we are left to assume they fulfilled what Christ asked them to do.  One wonders what would be their understanding of the Priest as they spoke to the one leper afterwords, or gained insight from the actual ordinance.  

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Ten Lepers Part 1




I had to stop and think again today as I came across again the story of the 10 lepers. (Luke 17: 12-19)

"And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priest. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole."

What if this story wasn't just to show us how one person showed gratitude? Gratitude is a good message to take no doubt. I see another message, perhaps one that is often overlooked. A message that would add a great deal of additional understanding and create an even more full gratitude if were were to comprehend and do likewise. A message that perhaps may lead to the same behavior of bursting expression of gratitude as was the case with the one leper.

Ten lepers wanted to be healed, Christ did heal them. He told them to go and show themselves to the priest, no doubt to receive the ordinance in the law of Moses that dealt with being healed from leprosy as found in Leviticus 14:1-32. They did as they were told. They followed Christ's instructions and were healed. One of them however returned to Christ and was made "whole", not just healed. He received an additional type of cleansing. He understood Jesus was The Priest. Christ was and is the Great High Priest. One of the lepers got that Christ was The Priest, making it unnecessary to go and participate in the symbolic ordinances that were intended to point to Christ anyway.  So he obeyed Christ also, but knowing who it was that was standing there, he showed himself to the actual High Priest. It was that leper that was made whole.  He fell to his knees and face and gave glory and thanks to God. 9 of them could see Christ as Master, and someone who should be obeyed, but one of them saw him as the great High Priest.  Christ offers more than what is visible upon first glance.

How they understood Christ determined their actions. His titles are real and mean what they say. I personally think such an expression of gratitude would be all but involuntary given such a being as Christ.

"Wise men still seek Him" is the cliche phrase I see on pictures and wooden decorations in peoples houses.  But the phrase is still somewhat incomplete.  Perhaps below that phrase could read: And the humble actually find Him.

"Only the rare person realizes where light and truth, which is the glory of God can be found. For the rest there is an abundance of rites, ordinances, observances, rituals, and symbols. While all of these point to the real thing, they are not the real thing itself." (Come let us Adore Him. pg 132)

How often do each of us do what Christ says, or what His servants counsel us, but yet fail to come to the Master as that leper did. We rely on the ordinances, the rituals and the rites, the institution, or His servants all pointing us to Christ but yet fall short of actually going where all of those things point. No use being pointed if you don't look, or go there. I wish I knew the name of the leper who got it. He's an inspiration and a teacher to us all. He did what Christ asked differently than the 9. He was made whole.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Superhuman Samauri


I was watching the history channel today and they were featuring a modern day Samurai Warrior.

So they invited him to come to LA to be interviewed and perform a demonstration for purposes of research.  They wanted to study and video his skills with the sword.  His first feat was on the baseball field.  They were going have a professional pitcher throw the ball as if pitching to a regular catcher but the guy was going to attempt to cut the baseball in half instead of hit it with a baseball bat.

He began with his ready position, sword sheathed, at home place.  The pitcher threw the ball something like 89 miles per hour.  The guy busted out his sword just before impact and cut the baseball in half on his first attempt.

Then they went to a shooting range. This time they wanted to up the difficulty by many many times over so they brought out a bb gun. Again a professional was brought in to point the gun and shoot at a target probably 60 feet away.  This participant wasn't going to say when the shot would be fired.  It would be up to the Samauri to hear the shot, and then respond accordingly.  The guy was confident he could hit/cut the bb with the blade of his sword on his first attempt.

So again, with sword still in it's sheath, he was back near the target when the shot was fired.  They later determined that the sound waves from the firing gun wouldn't register in the brain in enough time for the person to respond by pulling out the sward.  There would need to be a higher level of awarness, beyond what people normall percieve for him to even be able to have his sword out when the bb passed him.

All that taken into account, they brought in a slow motion camera to watch the action.  Shot was fired, and as it was firing he unsheathed his sward and literally hit the bb with the blade of his sword on the first try.  The slow motion camera caught it all.  By the time the human ear hears the sound of the gun, and is able to register it, the bee bee has already hit the target.  So this guy had such a developed ability he not only got the sward out in time, but actually hit a bb with the blade. 

So on his second try he actually cut the bee bee with the blade.  A bb.  Interestingly his eyes were all but closed while he did it.  It was as if he was using his mind, yet not using it. 

We're way beyond skill at that point. It was clear he was of One mind. His sword, the objects, his own body and all his surroundings had ceased to be separate entities. He could sense when the bb would be coming.  His eyes and ears did not need to register input into the brain for they were one with each other.

This obviously is something the eastern mindset has that dwarfs the western "technology".  We westerners had to slow down time in order to even see what had happened.  This man had actually performed the feat simply using his own body and awareness.

The western mind would try to mimic the steps, try to get a formula to follow for science. The Samurai on the other hand became one with his environment. He didn't dissect, and then build steps from a scientific method.  He instead became unified and became at one. He didn't need to rely on eyesight or hearing to cut a bb, he needed instead to be one with the bb. I think in that moment one would know more about God than getting a PhD in theology.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lot's wife


I think the account of Lot's wife is a great example of how it's possible (I certainly do sometimes) to read things into the scripture that are not there.

Genesis says this about Lot's wife: "But his wife alooked back from behind him, and she became a bpillar of salt." (Gen. 19: 26).

The image I think probably comes to most peoples mind of this lady instantly transforming into a pile of table salt, perhaps a white sandy silhouette or maybe even with lightening bolts. Yet it only said: "And she became a pillar of salt".  We read it to mean God instantaneously transformed her into our own idea of salt. However it did not say how long it took, or how it happened. Maybe it took years. Maybe she looked back and thus went back, choked on smoke from the destruction, fainted and got buried in the ash, and through a natural sequence of events based on her own choices became a pillar of salt, who knows.... I wasn't there. But putting my own interpretation on top of it and then coming to conclusions based on that is putting our own views on top of the scripture.  Maybe she instantaneously hardened and became a salt statue.  I don't know.

Just as examples, not saying what actually went down, one bible researcher said this about Lot's wife: "there are many great deposits of rock salt in the region, possibly the overthrow of the city buried her in a shower of these salt deposits blown skyward by the explosions." Another said this "having been killed by the fiery and sulfurous vapor with which the air was filled, and afterwords encrusted with salt, she resembled an actual statue of salt; just as even now, from the saline exhalation of the Dead Sea, objects near it are quickly covered with a crust of salt, so that the fact, to which Christ refers in Luke 17:32, may be understood without supposing a miracle." -Keil and Delitzch commentary.

My purpose isn't to investigate it, it's just to show how we read stuff into the scriptures. I've found much more understanding is available if I just read what it says and then ponder for understanding.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hosea and his wife, Story? Or was it real?

Today we talked about Hosea in church. How the Lord asked him to "take a wife of whoredoms" a whore. It was suggested by some that this story was just that, a story, and was figurative, designed to teach the readers about the analogy between Hosea and Christ. Christ as the bridegroom, and His relationship with the "bride" or the church or the covenant people of God, who scriptures liken to a harlot who is unfaithful and always going after other lovers and idols.

Some said that this was just a story, that it didn't actually happen. To me this doesn't work. I think Hosea made Gods word a reality. Each of us can do the same. I think the people in scriptures were real people, asked to do tangible visible things in a physical world to show and teach about Christ who also came into a physical world, physically laid down his life and actually "did" all that was prophesied of Him.  Are there stories and analogies in the bible?  Of course.  However I think to some degree the people writing scriptures understand what they write because in their own way, in the way asked of them, they act Christlike, not just talk about it, or tell stories about it. They will likely do it in very word and deed, hence they understand it. Perhaps they then teach by analogy or similitude but I think there were actual events that took place.  If I were Hosea I'd be stunned at a people who turned an important word from the Lord, a terribly difficult set of personal events, into something that didn't actually happen. Kind of a slap in the face. That could lead to people assuming that the Lords words are figurative and that people who hear them don't have to do anything but talk about it.

In Taylor's opinion of course, I realize there are other view points on the Old testament and it's literal versus figurative meaning that are valuable. I'm all open to hearing other viewpoints that can add truth, correct error, or add light to my own.

Talking about Christ and acting according to Christ's teachings I don't think are the same.  I think many stories are people who did literal things in the physical world.

Moses didn't actually have to lead Israel through a desert did he? Nephi didn't actually have to kill Laban did he? Did Noah actually build a boat? Did Abraham actually go to the mountain with Issac?  Some things I think did happen.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Eyes and light



Learned something today in my aviation safety and human factors class. It's about eye sight, night vision and potential illusions and problems as it relates to aviation.

We got to to talking about Pirates and their eye patch. Myth busters proved this as well. The eye patch was rarely because they were missing an eye. It was to maintain their night vision in one eye so when they invaded enemy ships they could go below the deck and see well enough to do battle. Because normally the eye would take too long to adjust to the dark that they would be killed under the deck. Who'd a thought?

Changing contexts for a second, hopefully our "eyes" don't become so accustomed to the fallen state of our world, the darkness, and the junk, that when God's light shines it hurts our eyes and makes us turn away. David Christensen had a great way to put this truth: "Just because our eyes have gotten used to the dark doesn't mean there is more light." We should seek the true light and see just how beautiful Gods light is. Things look different in the light. (John 11: 9-10, John 12: 35, 1 Jn. 1: 7)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mormon? (if you're easily offended you probably will be reading this)

The church has a big new public relations approach on it's website Mormon.org. It's gotten some press lately. It features everyday people who are "Mormon" and it's intent I believe is to show a good, everyday, positive image of those belonging to the church. It is likely geared to give an attractive, positive view to nonmembers of the diversity, and "normalness" of those belonging to the faith. It will probably work. A very interesting approach to public relations. It's being "tested" in test markets to make sure it is well received. I'd be curious how "success" is measured. But my thought and post here is about the term Mormon. (by the way click on the scripture references or you'll miss stuff)

Least anyone miss the obvious truth in plain sight, there is a trend of substituting the name of Christ for the name of a man. It's played off as a nickname, or because the churches official name is a mouthful. "The mormon church" is a common phrase by both members and nonmembers. It's false, Christ couldn't have been more clear on the matter. (3 Ne. 27: 7-11, see below)

I also understand overuse of the Lords name is a problem too, hence the use of "Melchizedek" priesthood D&C 107: 4. But the name of the church, and the name in our heart is another matter. The reference in this post today is individual and internal in nature. If someone were to ask "are you Mormon" I don't know that correcting their word usage to reflect the official name of the church is always the right thing to do. What I am saying is that there is a critical distinction in those words, and I think it's absolutely vital to internally and personally have a look at it. One relies on an institution, a string of emotions or emotional experiences, a set of prescribed beliefs, is very cultural, the other has its' foundation on the Rock of Heaven, the Son of God and a confirmation that originating in Heaven. The doctrine of Christ IS in the Book of Mormon, it is had within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I just hope we don't get so caught up in calling ourselves one thing that we subtly forget what is the most important thing. I hope we don't just broadcast to the world "I'm Mr. Ms. or Mrs.________ and I'm Mormon" yet forget the saving doctrine of Christ who's name He said was the one we should be known by. How can we be known by his name if we call ourselves by another name? When the scripture says "be known by his name". Be known by whom? Who's it talking about? That all may be entirely personal, that's for you to decide.

Christ, in the scriptures Mormon's claim to believe in, was very clear on what should be the name of His church. The words are so clear you have to try really really hard, as well as close your eyes and plug your ears to misunderstand. "3 Ne. 27: 8 : "And how be it amy bchurch save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moseschurch; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel."

Those are the words of Jesus Christ, notice his example uses Moses, a prophet. It seems there is a growing culture of membership in the "church of a prophet", in our case the Mormon church. This clearly is not what Christ taught to call the church. Now again I'm talking about the heart of the individual, not how they would answer every single question about their religious affiliation. But do you think such a distinction exists? Are our words reflective of our inner selves? I think you can sense the difference if you listen closely to two people using the same words. The Spirit of God is able to discern our hearts, it can give a person the correct words in a particular situation depending on what is appropriate for that moment. (D&C 100: 6). Could a distinction be evident our countenance? I think so.

So to sum this up, this post is more about how we as people orient ourselves and how our words are often important indicators. The critics view of Mormons is often that they are not Christian. Rather than fight back with a bunch of intellectual understanding or points of doctrine or quotes from someone you heard one time I think it'd be FAR better to respond humbly and maybe ask the "Am I a true Christian" question inside your own heart. Instead of a battle, you may find a brother, or a sister and both could be edified together by learning from each other.

So about Mormon, the original person bearing the name, in his own words declares the following: 3 Ne. 5: 13 "Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been acalled of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life." He is obviously a Christian. The words he declares are not his own, they are Gods word. He refers to himself as a disciple of Christ, and his actions are consistent with that. There is a modern tendency to refer to ourselves as Mormons and perhaps our actions are consistent with our words. Hum...... a bit of irony perhaps. This whole process happens subtly, so much so that it's viewed as completely normal, and totally acceptable. I mean who up and assimilates into a false church named after someone other than Jesus Christ? Who does that in one fell swoop? It happens step by step, subtly, and carefully. All the while assured "all is well in Zion," and "your church is the true one". This has already been foreseen, scriptures warnings have said this for a long time (2 Ne. 28: 21). Drawing near the Lords servants, or mouthpieces, then calling ourselves after them is not really what the scriptures taught us to do (D&C 76: 98-100). The Lord says "draw near unto me". Thank goodness He is no respecter of persons, and will answer each of our prayers asked in faith, there need not be an intermediary.

More from our friend Mormon (Morm. 8: 38). He talks about the holy church of God becoming polluted. How people are ashamed to take upon themselves the name of Christ. Interesting how that scripture is in the actual book written by Mormon, it identifies a group who has trouble taking upon themselves the name of Christ. Since we are the group of folks who believe in the book we should pay attention to when it may refer to us. So why is one of the official church websites named after Mormon anyway? Is being Mormon synonymous with Disciple of Christ? Interesting to think about.

I understand how others apply the mormon nickname to the church. But when people inside it call themselves "Mormons" and say "I'm a Mormon" I go to the "Mormon church" what is it's meaning? Are they in that moment saying they are a follower of Jesus Christ, the restored Gospel and internally biting their tongue as they endure the temporary cultural nickname? Or are they confirming they merely ascribe to a set of outward beliefs and outward actions termed the Mormon church involving things like tea and coffee, food storage, moral principles and abstinence from alcohol? I don't know, food for thought. You see the distinction I'm trying to make? It's mostly an internal distinction.

I love the truth, I have found incredible light in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit and learning doctrine from the Book of Mormon. I do not see any value in claiming membership in the church of a man, or looking to cultural trends to satisfy spiritual needs. It doesn't work. I don't see to rely on traditions. The Lord yes, the Spirit yes, and if the instrument is a human or earthly organization then that poses no problem because it's the Spirit I'm following not the mouthpiece. I trust in the programs and ordinances the Lord has instituted. I sustain the leaders because I love them and wish for Gods support in their duties. I also however have the personal obligation to discern truth from error and to align with the truth, heeding the right Spirit. I do not say anything in these posts to criticize, instead I hope it is helpful and interesting. Jesus said "Come follow Me". I think He has provided a way to learn and grow and receive ordinances with the Church. But membership in an institution and following Christ may in fact not fundamentally be synonymous, although they obviously go together. When I say what group I belong to, my meaning and orientation is clear to me. If someone cared to ask, they would learn that very quickly. I too however have flaws and errors, I'm no one special.

Hopefully I've been able to communicate what I think is a vital difference in life orientation. We should look to Christ and live. He is the author and finisher of our faith after all. We should experience moments when words are not sufficient, nor are our bodies able to contain the joy as well as our gratitude and love for Him who in perfect love gave his life a ransom for all.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Judge of the Quick


Moro. 10: 34 has this phrase: "the Eternal hJudge of both quick and dead" That phrase appears a bunch of times in scripture.

I wondered for a while what it means to be the judge of the "quick". I learned it has to do with those who are "quickened" by the Spirit. By the time Christ assumes that role an individual is either quickened or dead. One or the other, Christ is the judge of both. D&C 88: 26, 28-32, 49, 96 talks about an individual being quickened by a portion of glory, intelligence, or in other words light and truth (D&C 93: 36). D&C 67: 11 talks about no man seeing God in the flesh except being quickened by the Spirit. This all starts to connect. It all becomes very significant. We have that last verse implying a person can see God in the flesh when quickened. Moses 6:65 reads : "And thus he was baptized, and the Spirit of God descended upon him, and thus he was aborn of the Spirit, and became quickened in the binner man. That scripture links being born again with becoming quickened. How interesting a tapestry all these threads begin to weave.

It appears that one need not wait until the afterlife to be quickened, or judged, in fact if being quickened is experiencing rebirth of the Spirit, gaining light and truth, or even seeing God (D&C 93:1), then by all means it should NOT be postponed. Section 88 talks about a group of people who experienced it. So it must be possible.

How grateful I am that Christ is the judge. His love casts out all fear, His righteousness puts my soul at ease. It is said He is full of grace and truth. Who better to be the judge? Who better to seek now while His arms of mercy are extended? When would be better than this very day to follow his counsel. How much better is the Spirit which comprehendeth all things than an expert with a PhD or extensive academic education? The judgment bar of God is pleasing to those quickened by He who is full of light and truth (Moro. 10: 34). Earthly credentials not required.