Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"I bring no accusation against them"

There are so many things in our present world that we could easily condemn; practices, people, organizations, movements, beliefs, etc.... you name it. If we wanted to play the role of condemner, we would potentially have more material than we could use. Some do play this role.

We all know well the teaching to "Judge not". But often the accusation has already happened inside our mind. So to try and not judge at that point can be difficult. I found a teaching that for me has worked and been successful. It follows Christ purpose. Christ came to the world to save rather than condemn. (John 3:17)

One of Satan's titles is "The accuser of the Brethren" (Rev 12:10). "The accuser", Like: "to charge with"...

If I avoid that role, and simply don't accuse people, I find a whole list of positive things occur inside of me. Rather than evaluating and having judgements of others happen all day, I find simply not accusing accomplishes something really good. It frees up things and space inside of me. I'm not saying you don't make evaluations and decisions and weigh information for good decision making. I just mean not internally accusing anyone, not charging anyone of the deeds that we could so easily condemn and gripe about.

I think you can identify and point things out to people, or teach about errors in love without adopting the role of "accuser". It has a totally different feel. Treating ourselves this way, without accusations, I think is something worthwhile to think about as well.

The phrase that sums this up for me is. "I bring no accusation against them".  I freely forgive.  Think about that phrase. It sounds liberating. Some, if not many of our accusations against others in our world are probably accurate, but not accusing them in spite of all that is by far the thing I've found works best. If I don't accuse, there is no need to judge. And If I don't judge I am more free to love. And if I'm more free to love than I'm always happier.

This teaching sets them free, and on the inside seems to have the same effect on me.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Programmed Obedience

I was reading today about Milgram's psychology studies from a book titled "The Psychology of Influence". It was a whole series of studies with a wide cross section of the population.  One in particular caught my attention.  None of the people in the experiment prior to the experiment showed any signs of psychological ill health.

A local newspaper advertised a psychology study at a local University that would test memory. Upon arrival two participants were told by the Lab-coated instructor that it was a "memory study". They were given lists of words to memorize which would need to be repeated as accurately as possible. It wasn't really a memory test, they were actually testing for something else. The actual test was how far someone would go, and the amount of pain someone would inflict on another when told to by an "authority" figure. One participant would shock the other participant(who was really an actor pretending to be shocked) when they had a wrong answer to the memory test questions. It Started small, and the instructor beforehand told them that although there would be shocks administered there would be no permanent damage. This put their minds at ease. The severity of the shock would get worse each shock however. At some point they would get so bad with each progressing wrong answer that the participant(actor) would scream and beg to be released, and at some point go into a paralysis. But if the instructor told the deliverer of the shocks to continue delivering shocks the participant would. The amount of participants who would blindly go along with it was staggering. Something like 85%.

The conclusion of this series of tests was that participants would opt to obey authority rather than stop shocking an innocent person who was begging to be released. Interestingly the participants themselves would actually beg the instructor to let them stop administering the shocks for wrong answers, or failure to respond, but the instructor instructed to proceed and so they would.

This begs the question of why would any coherent adult do this. It got to the point that they could visually see the other participant convulsing in pain (or what the one participant thought was an actual shock). Even with screams, kicks, begs and pleas they still obeyed the instructor and gave the punishment. Other tests revealed even more curious information. The same test was conducted but with a non lab-coated less "authority" figure instructor giving the instructions. This had very different results. People began using their brains and all participants stopped the shocks almost immediately upon recognizing there was discomfort for the other person.

After dealing with the above experiments the author says this: "This paradox is, of course, the same one that attends all major weapons of influence. In this instance, once we realize that obedience to authority is mostly rewarding, it is easy to allow ourselves the convenience of automatic obedience. The simultaneous blessing and bane of such blind obedience is its mechanical character. We don't have to think; therefore, we don't. Although such mindless obedience leads us to appropriate action in the great majority of cases, there will be conspicuous exceptions-- because we are reacting rather than thinking.

Automatic obedience...... it's automatic so you have to become aware of when your doing it.  Albert Einstein said it really well:  “Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth."
Speaking of power, and how we sometimes automatically respond to people in authority. This all reminds me of the most, or one of the most horrific aviation accidents in history. The Tenerife disaster occurred on March 27, 1977, when two Boeing 747 passenger aircraft collided on the runway of Los Rodeos Airport (now known as Tenerife North Airport) on the Spanish island of Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands. With a total of 583 fatalities, the crash is the deadliest accident in aviation history. On a fogged in runway a KLM flight took off without a takeoff clearance and the crew of the flight knew what was happening. The first office spoke up but it was too little too late. The captain of the plane at the time was unquestionably seen as the authority and no one was to question him or doubt his action and decision.

There were other factors involved in this accident but one of the main ones was obeying authority when you shouldn't. It lead to a industry wide change in "authority" dynamic of the cockpit and has changed the industry and what crew members are expected to do and say independent of previous views on how the authority was to be obeyed without question.

Think of this concept of automatic obedience to authority in context of religion.  How might we commit religious malpractice?

Double dose of authority.

Sometimes while working at the medical clinic some of the hospital administrators, their family or high up executives, or some other VIP will come in for an office visit. I'm usually unaware of their status or position in the organization so it doesn't occur to me to treat them much different than any other patient.  Which of course we all try to do with a smile and a level of professionalism. Often my coworkers or the doctors will at some point tell me who the person is I'm working with (or more correctly inform me of their title)..... almost to imply that extra care should be taken to treat them well and not make mistakes. 

They often carry a sense of "authority" and "power" due to their position in the hospital management.  However often I don't notice it until someone informs me of their title.  But after that it's noticeable that their position gives them authority in everyone's mind. Our minds assume that they "must" be legit or else they would never have arrived to have such a title. Normally it takes years of work and training to acquire a title, so our minds tend to take a shortcut and presume a list of things about them. And where I work I haven't seen a whole lot of problems with this mental shortcut.  But it doesn't always hold true.   

Speaking of a related authority topic in the medical field.... I see commercials where an actor who plays a doctor in another popular TV series is now in a commercial for some medical pill or medical idea. How crazy is this? The industry has reason to believe we will be persuaded by the symbol of a doctor whom we KNOW is not a doctor. It would be like the main character of the TV series "Scrubs" in a commercial for some pharmaceutical drug. An actor, who plays a doctor, but who has been to nothing like medical school. So it's possible to portray "authority" by a mere symbol without providing the substance underneath.  The bigger and more influential the organization, the more effect this phenomenon of authority has. The bigger the TV screen on which you see someone speak, the more authority they seem to start to take on.

It's not the mental shortcut that to me is the main problem, it's when we apply it to our faith and religion.  The mental script goes something like: Position and Status or a PhD = Authority. And with that usually comes the simultaneous creation of the opposite, "No status or position = No authority. But this clearly is not always accurate in matters of faith and character.

So what happens if the kind of experience I described in the medical clinic permeates a church or religion? In a church there is a hierarchy, and this may result in a double form of authority because now an institutional position and title, along with "a call from God", are combined.  In the past Prophets didn't always have to deal with this dilemma, but in our day this is something we need to think about.  The authority of a prophet of God and a CEO's authority are very different.  In the LDS church we deal with this dilemma.  No amount of  institutional authority, or political, or business authority can add up to divine authority.  But we can so very very easily forget that we are called upon to follow the Spirit and discern the two.        

Simply following a person because of their title is condemned in the Scriptures.  Christ is the true authority, and we are invited to come to Him not get sidetracked by representatives, or mouthpieces.      

"A righteous priesthood leader always strives to lead people to Christ and never to look to himself as a source of truth. Beware of anyone who might block the way to Christ, by teaching that the people need to go through himself or other leaders to get to Christ. We need to establish that direct link to Christ by direct communication with Him through personal revelation, the rock upon which our own personal salvation is built."

Elder Richard G Scott,. May 17, 1992 Layton Northridge Stake Priesthood Meeting

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Constant Nourishment part 2

So at the bottom of the food guide pyramid we have bread grains, and of course water. Spiritually speaking Christ is the bread of life, He is living water, and both of these are used in the weekly sacrament meeting. He should be the foundation for our spiritual intake. Spiritually our daily diet should point to, teach of, increase light about, or testify of Christ. The first principles and ordinances of the Gospel I think were designed for this. Faith, Repentance, Baptism, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost. These are always what our base spiritual diet should include. But what if these things are contaminated? They certainly have been in my experience, but no one really seems to want to point it out. So I'll at least attempt to.

If you can alter the principle in just such a way so as to strip it of it's power than the contamination is total, and we waste away with impurities. I think just such contamination cheats us of what we should have been receiving. If we center our spiritual faith in an institution, or in men, or in a charismatic leader, or in a philosophy not designed to ultimately lead us to God; we may be getting truth altering impurities and pseudo nourishment.

The day to day faith, the "Gospel at the Kitchen sink" the "Gospel in overalls" should be faith in none other than the Son of God, Jesus Christ. We can have more than prescribed beliefs, or a set of rules or moral standards to follow. We can have faith in someone that lives, moves and breathes. No one else, and certainly no thing, has salvation to offer. If and when a Priesthood key is used it's still God who is in charge of if, how, and the when as well as being the author. Our faith should therefore not become centered in a servant, even if it's one called by Him. We should consume spiritual food from and about Him, hence the scriptural teaching about living the commandments. They teach us His nature because He is the epitome of the commandments and God's will. He says to come and learn of Him..... says to Come and buy milk and honey without money and without price, he asks us to come, partake and delight in fatness. (2 Nephi 26:25) (2 Nephi 9:51) ...

Repentance fails to nourish if how it's taught is misleading, or is a method to further perfect your own ego and feel self satisfied compared to those around you. The cliche five or six R’s of repentance (recognition, remorse, restitution, reformation, resolution, etc.) so often heard can be meaningless steps that don't nourish the spirit. The nourishing kind of repentance in my experience always has one ingredient. And that is I learn something, usually something contrary to my culture, something I did not previously know or even have considered, it causes my eyebrows to raise and a whole new kind of thought or outlook. There's no forgetting lessons from the Spirit.  The personal change repentance calls us to make can be exciting and a joy.  I've experienced it, and it's not cliche. It truly nourishes.  I could tell God was pleased, and that brings joy this world simply cannot offer.  There are no words for it, except to tell someone to do what it takes to see for themself.   

Overcoming difficult personal or family challenges requires nourishment of a lasting nature. Learning like that is fun. It causes sense of a inward growth towards light, a shift in orientation, a purification of the heart, a profound moment of peace and rest, a shift or return to holiness. Hard to formalize and standardize that. And only we know what things deep down are truly amiss in our lives.  The Lord will show us how to overcome them through the process of repentance. Simply adhering to a code and trying harder when you mess up may eventually show you your weakness and lead to humility but learning, joy and added light should happen along the way if we want to be nourished spiritually.  Not just checking off boxes, or becomeing more self righteous. 

Baptism nourishes, and changes ones nature when done with both power and authority. But if you haven't repented, didn't know what it even meant when you were baptized, and more went along with family religious traditions instead of personal faith in Christ; it too will lack the right taste of truth and nourishment.  It's contaminated.  Taking the sacrament isn't the same as getting baptized. So trying to renew a baptism by a different ordianance may just strip the original ordinance of it's power. That too may further deprive us of nutrients if the baptism lacked ingredients and we then believe the common assumption going around that taking the sacrament substitutes for a re-baptism.

The gift of the Holy Ghost is clearly going to nourish when it's received. Spiritual gifts, healing, speaking in tongues, revelation, prophecy, etc.... these are nourishing. But how often do we see them from everyday members of the church? If we did, I think many would be fearful of them. We usually fear what we don't understand. Such would probably be the state of a people who are malnourished. We're probably deprived of spiritual nourishment if these are lacking in our experience. I've been inspired many times without being spiritually fed. Certain things in life are inspiring, or emotionally touching, but spiritual nourishment from the Gifts of the Spirit is something unique. They can be different for each person but the gifts are from God.

Probably more often than not those foundational elements to the Gospel are contaminated, and people endlessly rely on basics that aren't getting them pointed where everything in the Gospel is supposed to point. We as a people in effect are starving while thinking we are feasting on the basics.  It does work.  Whether it's by reading truth from the scriptures,music, an inspired talk or sermon, unexpected truth taught or delivered, daily prayer, service and pondering, we need constant nourishment. I believe the phrase I started the post with is true, we do need constant nourishment.  To both body and soul.  For me it's helped to recognize the impurities that exist in my "food" and get past them to the actual nourishment. When I do, it points me directly heavenward and I feel fed from on high.  It helps me establish a direct link to Christ, it helps me come to Him.  Not just rely on someone else's testiony, someone else's wittness, or the success of the Church.

Someone else's wittness will never feed us like our own burning knowledge of the truth will.

Finish this phrase in your mind. "Your probably spiritually malnourished when.....

Constant Nourishment, Spiritual food.

Here's a great phrase to think about:
"The need for constant nourishment to both body and spirit"

I've been thinking a lot about that phrase. "Constant" nourishment. Not intermittent, not weekly, not every 6 months. I believe that the need for "constant" nourishment and the "constant" companionship of the Holy Ghost are connected.

So what happens if this goes ignored? Or if we substitute true nourishment with emotional stories and warm fuzzes? Or endlessly repeated and watered down doctrine? Or even misleading doctrine? What happens if what we are taught or what we consume spiritually was developed according to "what people want to hear" instead of the truths of the restoration that actually lead a person to Christ? Many good philosophies exist that may better peoples lives, but the Gospel of Christ should be unique in that it brings you to the presence of Christ to then be taught and lead further. This nourishes the soul does it not?  A direct connection to Christ is necessary.  A testimony of a church is not the same thing. 

I think our spirit will begin to atrophy if we don't personally act on our spiritual needs. Just like our physical body, it gets weak, and fragile and wastes away. A stunting of spiritual growth may happen. I notice a significant impact when I fail to take proper care to obtain constant spiritual nourishment. It becomes as noticeable as when I miss a few physical meals. It's as if the life energy of the soul which gives life to the body goes dim. Anyone out there have that? Ever feel that? It's sometimes a dull ache in the background until it gets filled with true light, then ya kinda wake up and realize how starving you have been all along. Least that's been my experience. Oh how our spirits must suffer when we not only don't feed it, but when we do it's too little and often contaminated.

Even a call to repentance can be nourishing. Ever felt that? Doesn't always have to feel warm and fuzzy, in fact that can often be more like cotton candy than nourishment. Sometimes I don't initially love the taste of certain foods, but my body appreciates the nourishment, and I can feel it. Eventually the taste grows on me. Same for things of the Spirit.

So as with the physical food recommendations of what the body needs to be refreshed, I'm putting together in my mind a spiritual nourishment pyramid of sorts. Having felt starved myself it's much easier to look around and see the same thing happening to others. We really do need the Gospel, the spirit will indeed starve if we don't feed it, and don't feed it the right stuff. Milk from a bottle is great for an infant, but becomes inadequate and looks funny if it were still used as the child grows.

More next post.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

His sons and His daughters

Mosiah 5:7
"And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters."

Through Spiritual rebirth we are called "children of Christ". If we "become his sons and daughters" by spiritually being "begotten", who then has become our "father in heaven"?

Our relationship to Christ can become a family relationship. The way we speak and interact would become much more personal. Many circumstances call for titles and appropriate respect, but if that is our only lifeline to heaven than that may just create an unnecessary suffocating barrier. I do not believe in a distant God who demands and coerces to gain respect. I believe in a God who invites us to know Him personally. The respect He then draws does compel my humility but not due to coercion, it's due to His light, goodness and overwhelming love.

The Spanish language has a familiar form of the "you" personal pronoun which is "tu". That's the word that is used in prayer when communicating with God. I remember learning to pray in Spanish and asked my teacher if I should use the formal respectful pronoun for 'you' which is "Usted". My teacher responded that I could but prayers are in the familiar form so I should use Tu. Familiar form, coming from the root word Family. I didn't catch that then, but I do now. I'm grateful to have learned a foreign language and begin to see in reality how many ways and on how many levels God desires to communicate on a personal level.  Not so much a formal one.  Some vocabulary habits and verbal traditions of the English language are not super helpful.

Many I interact with seem to want to endlessly maintain a very formal relationship in their prayers.  Regardless of the words and pronouns, it's very formal.   However God does not seem to share this view or desire we always remain at such a distance.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

....But God

"If you want a wonderful experience, take your New Testament and using a concordance, look up the two little-words, but God. See how many times human resources have been brought to an utter end; despair has gripped the heart and pessimism and gloom has settled upon a people and there is nothing that can be done. Then see how the Spirit of God writes in luminous letters, "But God," and the whole situation changes into victory.

This is what God is offering to be and do in us, and through us, in our human life today. God responds in the same way to us as he did to Abraham, so when we are oppressed and confronted with circumstances beyond our handling, we find the promise of God that covers the situation. In prayer we can sense some prompting of the Spirit that gives us a word of faith to rest upon. Then, like Sarah, we may ask ourselves this question: "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" No, he is able to perform all that he says he will." In His time, and in His way, but it's nevertheless sure.

Ray Stedman

Monday, June 13, 2011

Missing Jesus

Monday, June 13, 2011 (devotional from

Acts 13:27-28

"Because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets...And though they found no cause for death in Him, they asked Pilate that He should be put to death."

They didn't know Him. Centuries of prophecies were specifically fulfilled, right down to the town where Jesus was born*—and yet, when He came to the very people who expected Him, looked for Him, prophesied about Him, and prayed for a Messiah, they didn't recognize Him.

Why? Because they looked at Him and judged Him by human standards, rather than seeing Him through spiritual eyes.

Jesus was not recognized by His own people because they saw Him only as a carpenter's son, which meant poor. He had no money, no prestige, no special influence, nor standing in society. He had never been to their schools, was not educated by prestigious scholars, nor was He especially striking in appearance. So they wrote Him off and paid Him no respect. He did not fit the expected profile of the Messiah.

We do the same thing. We look for people who reflect our opinion of what we perceive to be the spiritual man or woman, and to them we listen, pay attention, and give our respect and service. And yet, we just might miss the people God sends into our lives, because we're too caught up in our human standards, and fail to see what God sees. Even worse, we just might miss the Lord Himself.

Jesus said to His disciples, "He who receives you receives me, and he who receives Me receives the One who sent Me" (Matthew 10:40). He also took the hand of a child and said, "Whoever welcomes this little child in My name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes Me welcomes the One who sent me. For he who is least among you all--he is the greatest" (Luke 9:48).

I wonder —if one of those scruffy disciples showed up in my church today, would we accept him and respect him? Do we truly look at the least among us and see greatness? Jesus told us over and over what to look for, and how to love. But we still too often miss Him.

"Do not consider his appearance or his height... The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7

Resting in the work of God

Hebrews 4:9-11
There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

Found this devotional thought and enjoyed it.  It's by Ray Steadman.

Shabat: The Sabbath Day
On the Sabbath the Lord rested. The heavens and the earth were completed, including all of their vast array (hosts). By the seventh day God had completed the work he had been doing, so on the seventh day he stopped working on (He rested from) everything that he had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, God rested from everything that he had been creating. (Genesis 2:1-3)

After 2000 years of teaching the Sabbath, this is still little understood, though its true meaning is of crucial importance. The true sabbath is a rest; the Jewish sabbath is a shadow, a picture of that rest. Jesus is the Sabboth, when we say "a day of rest" or we "rest on the Sabboth" We should be resting on Him. Resting in the work of God within us. Not just on a specified day of the week, but enter into the rest of the Lord.

Therefore, let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath. These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:13-17 RSV)

So then, there remains a sabbath rest for the people of God[it is available to us now]; for whoever enters God's rest also ceases from his labors as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:9-10 RSV)

That is what the true sabbath is, to cease from your own labors, your own efforts, your own activity; to cease from your own works. "Well," you say, "if I did that I would be nothing but a blob, an immobile inactive piece of flesh." Exactly! Of course you would. But the implication is that you cease from your own efforts and depend on the work of Another. That is the whole import of the book of Hebrews another One is going to work through you. This is why Paul cries, "Not I, but Christ. I no longer live, but Christ lives in me," (Galatians 2:20). This was also the secret of the life of Jesus, as we have seen. He himself said, "It is the Father who dwells in me who does the work," (John 14:10). "The Son can do nothing by himself," (John 5:19). This is the secret of the Christian who learns "it is God who works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure," (Philippians 2:13). So the secret of true Christian life is to cease from dependence on one's own activity, and to rest in dependence upon the activity of Another who dwells within. That is fulfilling the sabbath, the true sabbath.

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30 RSV)

Notice that twice in that passage is the word rest. One rest is given, the other is found: One is experienced when we first come to Jesus Christ. He gives us rest. He took your place, he died for you; he bore the punishment for your sin; he was wounded for your transgressions, he was bruised for your iniquity; and we are invited to believe that. Immediately there comes a sense of peace flooding your heart, a quietness. Guilt is swept away, no more fear of death, no more need for painful efforts to win Brownie points with God. You were resting on the work of Another. Christ paid it all; you were freely forgiven. What a sense of rest! He gives it.

But as you continue on you find that problems began to return and failures came. Your Christian life became boring and dull, barren and uninteresting. You knew something was wrong and you resolved to try harder, to give yourself more fully to Christian activity, to throw yourself into it with more zeal and effort. This you did, and for awhile things went better, then it seemed to ebb out again into the same old thing. You ended up bored and disillusioned, disenchanted, discouraged. What is the answer? Well, it is what our Lord said, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, and you will find rest," (Matthew 11:29-30a RSV)

Some people feel emptiness in their Christian life, despite doing all the things they knew they ought to do. Yet they are not finding anything of the electric excitement that belongs to a Christian, or of the joy of daily adventure of faith with Jesus Christ. They lack rest."

What doctrine is this? Why is it not taught more often in such simplicity and depth? Where is the deep doctrine the restoration of the Gospel should be constantly inviting us to consider and ponder?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Humility and Faith

"You need never be discouraged or afraid. The way through difficulties has always been prepared for you and you will find it if you exercise faith." - Pres. Henry B. Eyring

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Words of Mormon 1:18

Words of Mormon 1:18
Wherefore, with the help of these, king Benjamin, by laboring with all the might of his body and the faculty of his whole soul, and also the prophets, did once more establish peace in the land.

There efforts were successful. When your standing before God is assured by Him, salvation is a reality through Jesus Christ.  Imagine how much more freedom you would then have to labor in such a labor of love for others?  It would be like rest to the soul. When resting secure in your own future state, you can love and hope for others in a way you could not if you still worry about your eternal welfare.  It would free one to serve others in a way not previously possible.  

These prophets established peace.  None of them claimed to have done it alone.  With the help of fellow laborers, King Benjamin helped establish peace.  What a great leader.  If only all of our political leaders were like him.

This all brings up an interesting topic. How does one properly define success? Is it by the number of chapels built? Church attendance? How many total numbers of members worldwide? Is it measured by how many temples there are? Is it measured by financial stability of an institution? Is it measured by everyone believing an orthodox creed?

I think success is someones gaining or increasing in knowledge of Christ, for that is what saves.  So success is progression towards truth and light.  Everything else will eventually fail, or corrupt, or be reorganized.

How long have I "gotten through the Book of Mormon", but not let it get through me.  The initiatives to read the book in X number of days sometimes are not as helpful as studying the message.  The words of the Lord that point out our condemnation I don't think are said in anger, they now seem like words to warn us, and help us see the light, come to the light, and then share He who is the Light.  The Book of Mormon was intended to remove the condemnation up on the Saints.

These last 18 posts about Words of Mormon have been just the thoughts, ideas and questions that came to mind as I read this one book from the Book of Mormon. I feel inspired, I feel humbled, I feel a need to put away the errors, "unbelief", or false beliefs as the book of Mormon implies with that word. I see the need to repent.

I've read plenty of Joseph Smith's words and plenty of Mormon's. They are not the same person. I've gathered what I can, read it, looked into it and conclude for my self independent of any other person that Joseph Smith didn't write this. The content brings me closer to Christ which Joseph said it would.

Words of Mormon 1:17

Words of Mormon 1:17For behold, king Benjamin was a holy man, and he did reign over his people in righteousness; and there were many holy men in the land, and they did speak the word of God with power and with authority; and they did use much sharpness because of the stiffneckedness of the people—

In case there is doubt about what kind of character the king was, Mormon tells us he was a holy man. What does that even mean? How does someone become holy? (Moroni 10:33). The Hebrew word for Holy is qadosh (Kah-dosh). Qadosh literally means "to be set apart for a special purpose". This is a sacred setting apart.

Becoming holy is part of the covenant of the book of Mormon that clearly the Lord is trying to get us to remember. The book of Mormon is referred to as the new covenant "even the book of Mormon" we are supposed to remember to remove this condemnation put upon us in D&C.  Moroni tells us in plain English what this covenant involves. It involves becoming "holy, without spot".  That's what King Benjamin had. It also involves having the blood and sins of the generation removed from the persons garments. So how did King Benjamin become holy?

The answer starts to become clear in this statement from the book The Second Comforter by Denver Snuffer foudn on page 261. "Sacred Knowledge kept sacred makes the one holding it a vessel of righteousness.  There is a notion of things which are "most holy" in Judiasm.  It is beyond the scope of this work to fully examine that subject.  But things "most holy" have the capacity to impart to the recipient holiness.  Things given int eh Temple to the one being endowed are "most holy."  They can impart holiness to the one who receives them.  By receiving these sacred and most holy things the recipient is made holy by holding them with her person.  When they are profaned, however, and covenants are disregarded, they then condemn the person who treats the things of God lightly."

King Benjamin held sacred knowledge.  He conversed with Angels, and spoke the words of God.

There is another part of this verse that is really good.  The phrase "With power AND authority". They aren't the same, and it's possible for there to be one without the other. There were other prophets in the land.  Our current understanding in the church doesn't really comprehend this.  We've centralized priesthood power to one office holding man.  But the Book of Mormon is independent of our current understanding.  So a question that then comes up, is where did these other prophets get this authority from?  Where die the power come from?  From another man? Was it directly from God?  Joseph Smith translation of the fourteenth chapter of Genesis gives this valuable insight on that question.  vs 26-29.

Now Melchizedek was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire. And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch, It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God; And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name.

The power of God comes from God himself.  He controls it.  The other part of this verse I wanted to look at is the adjective used to describe the people. Stiffnecked. A stiff neck is held high and doesn't bend easily. It's high in pride and looks down at others. It feels self satisfied that they are favored of God while those around them are not.

Not only King Benjamin spoke the word of God, but the other prophets too. They all spoke the words of God and it didn't matter their political or religious title. We too should become the kind of people who are humble, meek, and of such a character we are privileged to speak God's word as given through the Holy Spirit.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Words of Mormon 1:16

Words of Mormon 1:16
"And after there had been false prophets, and false preachers and teachers among the people, and all these having been punished according to their crimes; and after there having been much contention and many dissensions away unto the Lamanites, behold, it came to pass that king Benjamin, with the assistance of the holy prophets who were among his people—"

Contention and dissension. People dissented away to another culture or political group. I think we may see a lot of this as our own history unfolds. I wonder what their reasoning would have been for dissenting away and going over to the Lamanites. Was it religious? Political? For reasons of "freedom"?  Would the guy who claimed judgement day and the rapture would begin on May 21st 2011, and had people donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to spread the word be one of them? I'm not implying anything, I just wonder what modern day examples of this may look like. Does lack of prophecy by someone claiming to be a prophet fall into the category? Super interesting questions to think about. I don't know all the answers.

But the last part of the verse is what catches my eye the most. There were more prophets than just King Benjamin among the people! There were holy prophets, more than a few. They were among the people. There was a king and priest but also unidentified holy prophets mingling within the community, no doubt going about to spread truth, and peace. What a difference to the norms of our current society.

In our culture "The Prophet" is the President of the Church and it's pretty much unheard of for someone else to also be a prophet or a seer outside the hierarchy. Even the thought would make many people uncomfortable. Some would say such a thing does not exist because it would challenge or disrupt the leadership and authority of the President of the Church. But in King Benjamin's society they were not at odds, they worked together in harmony, it was not a competitive thing. They needed and valued each other. The other prophets would not have disrupted, or tried to overtake the authority or stewardship of the leader, who in this case was also the king. There was no jealousy, and no compromising of organizational structure, or order. They had no doubt a different calling than the King, yet were able to teach truth, and spread the Gospel with God's power and authority in accordance with the Spirit.

What wouldn't be appropriate is if someone were to establish a competing organization and set of followers that did disrupt the organization of the church or leadership. But this clearly isn't what was happening in this Book of Mormon society. (For a much deeper and more complete discussion on this topic the book "Beloved Enos" is an excellent source for the doctrine and much much more on this topic)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Words of Mormon 1:15

Words of Mormon 1:15
And it came to pass that after there had been false Christs, and their mouths had been shut, and they punished according to their crimes;

I'm asking my self, what is a false Christ? Is a false Christ someone who claims to be Jesus but instead struggles with a mental disorder? Is a false Christ someone who "sets them self up as a light"? Christ in his visit to Americas says to "hold up your light that it may shine unto the world" but the next line informs us that HE is the light we are supposed to hold up (3 Nephi 18:24). Not ourselves. So perhaps holding ourselves up is a false form of Christ, by holding up something, or redirecting the focus towards something that isn't the true light (2 Nephi 26:29). What does it look like to "set yourself up as a light"? It's called priestcraft in the scriptures and in the above reference in Nephi. I don't know all the answers but I think the above is worth some thought.

Is a false form of Christ someone who says they say something "in the name of Christ" when they actually don't?  Is it a false Christ when the words are lip service or just empty words that aren't really spoken in the name of Christ although his name is used? I think that could be a false form.

Along with the idea of false Christs, Satan can appear as a being of light (2 Nephi 9:9). He was the original false "Christ" who sought to claim glory and honor to himself due to his role in his own version of The Plan of Salvation. False Christ's may mean a lot of things. Especially if we look at "Christ" as a title. Someone could claim to be Jesus. Or someone could just be setting themselves up as a light, wanting others to look at them, follow them, and give them praise, or a person could use his name in vain. I think all of that would qualify among still other things that would be considered false Christs. Priestcraft is something scriptures warn about when speaking of the latter days. Warnings are pointless though if we don't allow ourselves to be warned.

In this Nephite society false Christs were punished. Weird,.... in our day I don't know that we have something equivalent unless a person violates the laws of the land. Not sure though, interesting to think about.

Tonight I happened to be looking at the bug zapper on the outside of my in-laws house. Bugs are attracted to a light source. In this case it's a false purple glowing light, and is a trap. They see the "light" and are lured in, and they don't survive the consequences. A good lesson for all of us to make sure we seek, and hold up the true light which is Jesus Christ.

Words of Mormon 1:14

Words of Mormon 14And in the strength of the Lord they did contend against their enemies, until they had slain many thousands of the Lamanites. And it came to pass that they did contend against the Lamanites until they had driven them out of all the lands of their inheritance.

"In the strength of the Lord they did contend". I think that view of life has been replaced by "in the strength of our bombs and guns, we contend". The less effective your weapon I think the easier it is to see the hand of the Lord, or lack of, in a battle. These folks would be fighting with more primitive weapons and I think would more easily recognize they fought and would be successful in the strength of the Lord. Not their own strength, but the strength of the Lord. The difference is so big it can only be grasped I think by God showing a person. Then pride vs humility starts to take in incredibly meaning.  Our own strength vs the strength of the Lord is something you have to be shown.  We see what little personal power we have, vs the power of the Holy One.

The last line to me communicated something as I read it. They drove the Lamanites out of "all the lands of their inheritance." It wasn't just land that they occupied and therefore would claim as theirs because they found it, or they were the first ones to occupy it. It was actually a land inheritance from God. God gives people land. Often conditional on their serving Him, but he does give land for a people's inheritance. These people had a right to their land because they were doing the Lords will and He promised it to them. Beyond finder's keepers, and "my land", this is their land by the word or covenant of God. Granted they don't become polluted, corrupt, and loose the inheritance based on their own wickedness.  They drove the invading armies "out" of their land.  They did not take upon themselves the role of aggressors in war.

The Lord will fight our battles. Doctrine and Covenants 105:14. "For behold, I do not require at their hands to fight the battles of Zion; for, as I said in a former commandment, even so will I fulfil—I will fight your battles."  We need to qualify for the Lord to fight our battles.  This verse says "Former commandment".  That phrase goes back to the Lord telling us how to get out from under the condemnation he put us under in D&C that I reference all the time. He said to remember "the former commandments". So when he says former commandment I think we should pay attention. The Lord will fight our battles if we remember the former commandments.  But when we don't do what he says, we have no promise.

If the United States is to survive it will be because we serve the true and living God, Jesus Christ. If we don't, and no longer call ourselves a Christian nation (President Obama is who I'm quoting as saying "we are no longer a Christian nation") then the scriptures are clear of the fate. We need to take the Lord's words seriously on an individual level. We each have our own battles, the Lord says He will fight them. But this granted our battles are "battles of Zion", and not "battles of Babylon".

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Words of Mormon 1:13

Words of Mormon 1:13
And it came to pass also that the armies of the Lamanites came down out of the land of Nephi, to battle against his people. But behold, king Benjamin gathered together his armies, and he did stand against them; and he did fight with the strength of his own arm, with the sword of Laban.

It's clear in the wording that the Lamanites came TO THEM to battle. And the Nephites stood against them. The Nephites did not go into their land. That follows the pattern the Lord has given for war.

So I wonder why the sword of Laban is still around. Cool artifact, but aside from that, what's the significance? Joseph Smith spoke of it as well as being one of the items he discovered along with the plates. It must mean something. As a symbol I think the sword represents quite a few things worth considering.

Here is what I found while researching. A sword was a sign of kingship. And probably God's approval of military use. Possession of it made Laban the "Captain of Fifty" in Jerusalem. When Nephi acquired it he replaced Laban as the military leader in the extended family, and he acquired kingly authority. When he later obtained possession of the brass plates, he was the "king and priest" because he possessed both symbols of authority, sword and plates. So King Benjamin being in possession of both plates and the sword of Laban made him a king and a priest. He in the first few chapters of Mosiah is able to and does lead people to Christ, they experience a spiritual rebirth. He speaks God's word with both power, and authority. So he very much is a king and a priest.

I think physical symbols or emblems of God's involvement are a sign of someone in possession of the true Gospel and are God's people. I wonder where such things are today. I hear little if anything about them. I wonder if they would be seen as superstitious instead of how such things were viewed anciently. A "prophet, priest and king" in the scriptures should possess all four things: sacred record, sacred directors, sword of authority, and urim and thummim. They are emblems. Ultimately they will belong to Christ during the Millennium.

There is a common belief that somewhere in a church vault or mountainside archives such items may be stored/hidden. When I read of these items in the past they were used, not just stored or gathering dust. So I wonder what the future will hold.