Friday, November 25, 2011

The Journey


I came across this from John Pontius's blog.  The personal implications are at times hard for me, but I sense that the underlying message is true.  Thought it was worthwhile to put on here:

"This is the virtue of the journey. We can’t arrive at any righteous destination without the journey. It is the trial and struggle of the journey that changes us, so that when we actually arrive, we are worthy to enter.

I have many friends over the years, who suddenly decided to move to Missouri so that when the time to return to Zion came, they would already be there. I do not doubt that this was the Lord’s plan for them, so I’m not judging them in any way. But, I also know that “being there” isn’t the point. Even if you live one block away, you can’t avoid the spiritual journey to Zion.

Arriving in the actual Latter-day Zion which will be prepared to receive Christ when He returns is a spiritual triumph, not a hiking accomplishment. It’s very much like finally obtaining the grand blessings of the temple. I’m not referring to participating in the ordinances, but of actually realizing the blessings promised by the ordinance. The journey doesn't happen inside the temple – that was the “being there” part. The journey happens in a long course of your life, learning obedience, learning consecration,  and paying the price that such things exact, so that when the veil parts before you many years later, that you are finally worthy to enter.

This is why every righteous journey includes sacrifice, struggle, pain and thousands of blows by the hammer in the Refiner’s loving hand. Because, this is the journey, not getting from point A to point B, but coming to Christ and submitting ourselves to the journey He lays before us.

This is the virtue of the journey of our lives, that it not only takes us to the places, but that through the atonement and grace of Christ all along the way, it purifies and sanctifies us so that as the veil begins to part, or as the New Jerusalem appears on the next hill, we are worthy to enter in."

The Private Battles

Elder Eyring in the Ensign of 2004 said this:

"When I was a young man, I served as counselor to a wise district president in the Church. He tried to teach me. One of the things I remember wondering about was this advice he gave: “When you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble, and you will be right more than half the time.” (Henry B. Eyring, “In the Strength of the Lord,” Ensign, May 2004, 16)

Whether it's the car vs train accident you read about on the news, the divorce your friend is about to experience who has called you bursting into tears, whether it's the police vehicles you see at the neighbors house, or if it's the quiet battle you sense inside the heart or mind of the person who sits next to you at church, there are so many battles. Everything from addiction recovery, to the pain or consequences of someone elses's choices whom you love.

Maybe the battle is finding a relationship or having family when things don't seem to be working.   Maybe the struggle is with work, with coworkers or other economic challenges.  Life is hard.  Therefore I think we shouldn't be hard on each other.  Most of the battles people face we probably don't see, but it's worth recognizing that they exist. Some are extremely painful, although not visible. Others are equally difficult but more visible to others.

It creates empathy and a space for compassion to acknowledge private battles for a moment.

I like Elder Eyring's words. Not that we project problems onto people, or assume negative things of their life. But just simply acknowledging that life can be hard, and that we can support each other, and share our God given gifts and talents with those who can benefit from them.   If we just take notice.    

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Yield



One of the symbols for God throughout history has been a triangle. The 3 points, the 3 sides in one have deep connections.  The shape has been used since ancient times for God.  Often it's a triangle pointing downwards.  It symbolizes God's reach down to man.

Often, an upwards pointing triangle symbolizes man reaching up to God.  If you interlock the downward and upward facing triangle you get The Star of David.

I've made it a point since reading a book about the geometric truths all round us to notice them, especially the symbols in my daily life.  Today I noticed the triangle that is the yield sign.  It happens to be a downward facing triangle and it means to give way to another.  If one pauses at a yield sign they are yielding "the right of way".

I realize it's a traffic sign, intended to keep the road safe, but for a second I enjoyed thinking about additional symbols of such a common everyday object.

The scriptures say we must "yield" to God (Rom 6:13) (Rom 6:16).  Yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit (Mosiah 3:19).  The yield sign on the road is a downward pointing triangle.  The symbol fits in more than one way.  We're supposed to yield to "the right way of God (or right "of" way).  Which "yields" (using the other definition of the word) all sorts of good things.  So we're supposed to yield to God and our yield (what we produce) goes to God's glory. (Mark 4:7-8)    

When we yield to God.....it's always a good thing, (Rom 6:16).  I think so anyway.  I've never regretted when I yielded to a prompting from God.  Regret to me sounds like the state one would be in having not recognized and not yielded to God. Unless of course, they repent which is always possible for any of us.  

Mormon 3:3


 Mormon 3:3 And I did cry unto this people, but it was in vain; and they did not realize that it was the Lord that had spared them, and granted unto them a chance for repentance. And behold they did harden their hearts against the Lord their God.

I like this verse because it shows the difference in perspective between Mormon, and his people (the Nephites).

Mormon sees the Lord as the one offering a chance to the Nephites.  He is their God, even when they don't realize it.  Mormon cries unto the people to try and help them.  He wants them to repent and stop their madness.  I can tell Mormon's words from the previous chapter (and that i quoted last post about being visited by the Lord) are true because now I see Mormon acting like Christ.   

The people on the other hand act like savages (D&C109:65) (Moroni 10:9).  They do not realize it is the Lord that has spared them.  The realization of which would be a great blessing to them.  Their worldview does not include what Mormon's does.  They don't view the Lord as being the overriding influence, they don't view their circumstance as the Lord offering them kindness, mercy and yet another chance.  They see their circumstance as their own.  It's their own military success or lack of.  The battles outcome wasn't due to their superiority, their pride, or their prowess on the battle field, but of course they don't see it that way. In fact they go on to prefer death as opposed to realizing what is actually going on and how involved the Lord is.      

The truth is Mormon's view.  The happenings were part of a plan the Lord had, even if they choose not to participate.  The Nephites on the other hand don't view the events in the right light and so they continue with the deteriorating worldview and harden their heart.

The charity of Mormon is inspiring.  He, against all odds, continues to try and reclaim anyone he can even though they are doomed (Mormon 3:12) and the day of grace has passed (Mormon 2:15).  They had the option to repent of course, and avoid the doom, but they insist on doing the opposite over an extended period of time.  As I read the time frames of this chapter this wasn't like a split second thing.  As I'm reading these verses these are repeated decisions over a span of a long time.  There is a message of comfort in this.  Even if your sins have distanced you from God completely, for a long time, the Lord STILL reaches after you.  

The scriptures talk about charity, and help us understand it a great deal.  I'm no historian, and I wasn't there, but Mormon here seems to be talking and showing what Charity looks like in action.  He says: "Behold, I had led them, notwithstanding their wickedness I had led them many times to battle, and had loved them, according to the love of God which was in me, with all my heart; and my soul had been poured out in prayer unto my God all the day long for them; nevertheless, it was without faith, because of the hardness of their hearts."  vs 12    

God doesn't force, and from what I'm reading God gives opportunities until the recipient clearly, without any doubt, does not want it and has made the refusal clear.  I guess we all get what we want in the end.

Mormon's desires, are in total contrast to his peoples desires. I see Mormon acting in ways that reveal who he has become.  Charity suffereth long, is not puffed up, does not vaunt itself.  Charity never faileth even when the hearts of the intended recipients refuse it, and do fail.  Love still believes, even if the person does not. Love still endures.  God is good.  There is no life that God is not involved in.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mormon 1:15

15 And I, being fifteen years of age and being somewhat of a sober mind, therefore I was visited of the Lord, and tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus.

Joseph Smith was 14, Mormon was 15, Jacob in the book of Mormon was "in his youth" and they report being visited by the Lord.  Such visits are what make scriptures scriptures.  The age of the three mentioned didn't necessarily limit a visit from the Lord. Mormon says he was of a "sober mind".  He could value the experience and hold it in a place of sacredness.  The verse just before this was all about his surrounding environment.  Even though what prevailed around him was wickedness, unbelief, and iniquity, Mormon was still visited by the Lord. 

Joseph Smith reported "my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant..."  I see something in common with Mormon.  Their internal state is able to ponder, reflect, and value something given to them.

When I read that Mormon, Jacob, Nephi, Lehi, Alma...and Joseph and many many others were visited of the Lord, something about that speaks very deeply.  This kind of talk is almost totally absent in our day.  However the scripture authors were not shy about it.  They, as we know, would not profane the sacred, but neither was their testimony put away in hiding.  Their testimonies and sacred history are before us all in the scriptures, for believer and Non believer alike.     

Mormon says he tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus.  It was a personal, and direct experience.  Joseph Smith said it left him with indescribable peace.  It all speaks to the fruit Lehi and Nephi spoke of in vision.  It's the most pure, and desirable above all else - to quote Nephi and Lehi.     

The goodness of God leadeth to repentance and to life (see Romans 2:4).

The goodness of Jesus.  How few words could ever attempt to describe that. Mormon's enduring testimony is one that D&C 76, and 138 speaks of.  It speaks of a testimony that is tied directly to those who will have eternal life. (John 17:3)

Jesus, the very thought of thee
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far thy face to see
And in thy presence rest.     
 

-Saint Bernard of Clairvaux 

Mormon 1:13-14

13 But wickedness did prevail upon the face of the whole land, insomuch that the Lord did take away his beloved disciples, and the work of miracles and of healing did cease because of the iniquity of the people.  14 And there were no gifts from the Lord, and the Holy Ghost did not come upon any, because of their wickedness and unbelief.

The Holy Ghost doesn't just come automatically.  There are laws that govern it.

Wickedness, iniquity, unbelief.   Then 1. The Lord takes away His beloved disciples. 2. The work of miracles cease. 3. Healing ceases. 3. There are no gifts from the Lord. 4. The Holy Ghost did not come upon any.

I wonder if the people thought themselves wicked, or dwindling in unbelief, or having iniquity.  I would venture to say they would deny such things.  Maybe even call the speaker of those words semi-apostate.  We know that unbelief has to do with religious error.  It's not that the folks referenced here are not religious, it's probably that the erroneous beliefs were either wrong, incomplete, or misleading, which leads to iniquity, and causes wickedness.

For me personally as I've tried to align with the Gospel and seek it's blessings I've had to identify my beliefs, as well as those of the prevailing culture.  I have come across far too many that were misleading, far too many that were incomplete, and far too many that were not correct. It's an ongoing process.  I cannot exclude myself or presume I am so different than people in the book of Mormon.  Mormon says wickedness prevailed.  Meaning it was widespread, dominant, existed everywhere.  Maybe even had more strength (number wise) than the truth.  

When something is so predominant sometimes there is a tendency to presume that the thing in question must be correct.  When you pass billboards for the 200th time selling lies and vanity, you get used to it.  When the outer appearance is worshiped, the shopping malls become the "place of worship".

I wonder what widespread, dominant, incorrect attitudes and beliefs are circulating nowadays?  Errors that would cause a lack of miracles, healing, gifts from the Lord, or for the Holy Ghost to not come upon any, or a general lack of the presence of the Lords beloved disciples.  Are any of these wicked things on our tv?  Are they in our schools?  Can you see any iniquity when you drive downtown? Or are we blind to it all?  Do you think there are any perverse teachings that weave their way into our religion?

Instead of miracles the people will trust "in the arm of the flesh", and fall in love with pharmaceuticals.  Instead of the "Holy Ghost" people will rely on the military, their own learning, and education.  It may begin to appear as though someones 'marketplace worth', equals their 'self worth'. Instead of beloved disciples who follow Christ, there will be great honor and respect given to men with high office who cannot err and who are the only ones that possess the keys of Eternal Life.  Initially some of these things wouldn't appear "wicked" because they are so prevalent.  But they are....

This all reminds me of the Lords words: “And again, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings,…yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, … yea, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not.”  (See 3 Nephi 10:5)

It's easy to become numb to the wicked nature of something when your up to your ears in it, or have never been told the smog we breath is filthy.  When the God's gifts slowly die out, some may presume they were never real to begin with.  That would be awful.

Pres. Benson: "The type of apostates in the Book of Mormon are similar to the type we have today. God, with his infinite foreknowledge, so molded the Book of Mormon that we might see the error and know how to combat false educational, political, religious, and philosophical concepts of our time.…"
—“The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God,” Ensign, May 1975, 63–65.

For some, (Mormon's example) despite the prevailing errors, they take a different path and breath pure fresh air.  More next verse.

Mormon 1:1


Wanted to study some scriptures from the Book of Mormon again.  These are just some notes and thoughts as I read the verses.  

And now I, Mormon, make a record of the things which I have both seen and heard, and call it the Book of Mormon.

Some people's testimonies last a long long time.  Repetitious phrases and empty words sometimes hardly last until they are finished being spoken.  On the other hand a God inspired record can last hundreds of years and are even recorded in heaven (D&C 62:3).  It's interesting how oftentimes people's records of truth gain more importance and influence after they die. 

Mormon made a record of "things heard and seen".  The rest of this chapter shows this included temporal events but was in the context of spiritual things.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Resonance

Been readin' a fascinating book called "The beginners guide to constructing the Universe".  I was shocked how many truths are to be found in nature.  By simply understanding the numbers 1-10 I felt like I saw a world I had never noticed. You have to have "eyes to see it" but it's there is so much in front of our noses.  We all faintly recognize Mother Natures patterns and truths, and even refer to them in our common phrases, but usually don't know why we do.  Different societies in history have come to many of the same mathematical or geometric, or even religious conclusions, and identified similar principles, but without having shared their knowledge with each other.   

One concept that stood out was resonance.  I'm no scientist, or expert on physics, so I'll quote him and then add a few connections based on my limited understanding. He says "Everything in the Universe has it's natural vibration frequency."  He explains how atoms are vibrating energy.  Everything is made of atoms or energy of various wavelengths and charges.  Our bodies are an energy field of vibrations.  Music is the name we give to vibrations within an energy "band" which are able to be interpreted by our inner ear and brain.  Other wavelengths are interpreted by our eyes as color.

All of life can be viewed as music, but not necessarily the wavelengths our ear perceives as "notes".  But everything has a wavelength, and some of it we can see, for example a guitar string vibrating as you pluck it, or watching the rhythmic ocean waves.  Each color appears the way it does due to it's vibrational frequency of waves.  Some visible, some not.

Our bodies, since they are composed of energy, can vibrate "in tune", or "out of tune" with higher things.  We'll sometimes say someone has "tuned out", or when someone is close to the Holy Ghost we say they are "in tune" with the Spirit.  We all resonate with certain things, and don't resonate with others.  But all we have an inner ability to resonate with higher things.     

The author Michael Schneider says this:  "You may have noticed this principle while driving a car.  As the car accelerates, its pistons oscillate, or vibrate at different rates.  The tires moving over the ground also create an overall vibration in the car.  At a certain speed, or rate of vibration, the windows may rattle.  At a higher speed, the windows stop but the glove compartment door rattles.  Then the sound recedes and perhaps the door handles begin to rattle, or some object in the car will rattle. As the car's vibratory "note" changes, those loose objects that resonate with that particular "note" will absorb its energy and vibrate or rattle with it. 

He goes on to say: "We experience resonance on a very personal level in our rapport with the people we know and meet.  Consider that our inner world is an energy system.  Each urge, desire, emotion, though, and intuition represents a different wave band of subtle energy.  Each of us unconsciously broadcasts the energy of our inner life and receives that with which we are in tune.

Our outer experience only resonates with our inner rattle (or vibration).  If we don't like the connections we've formed we cannot break them, but we can transform ourselves so as to not resonate with those things any longer.  It's useless to blame anyone or anything outside ourselves.  We carry our inner state with us and will find the same types of friends and relationships wherever we go.  To change what we encounter in the world we change the levels and qualities to which we attune."

-End quote 

I've noticed I "resonate" with different things at different times.  The book described an experiment with guitar strings that were an octave apart.  They still "resonate", with each other even though they are different.  The same, yet different.

The scriptures I think have their unique vibrational frequency.  The Holy Spirit has a tune and unless you align with it, or begin to resonate with that power, the messages won't make any sense.  The instrument is "out of tune".  But the instrument is our body, or perhaps our spirit.  When "in tune" the music, harmony, and beauty is unlike anything I could ever describe.  No one can really describe a beautiful piece of music with words, you have to hear it, experience it, and feel it.  

I think this is how the Gospel is.  It's like Music.  For me I needed to get in harmony with it, and resonate with Christ and his Gospel before I could make a conclusion about it.  I believe with our choices, we can come to "know" the things we resonate with.  When resonating with the Gospel, it makes sense at a level I had never considered.  It draws me to understand deeper knowledge and is fulfilling to the soul.  But if your not in tune at that frequency, the symphony is not appealing at all, you can't hear the music.  When resonating with it, however, things look different, feel different, and it's an experience, not just an intellectual description or set of religious facts.  I think the commandments are a pathway to help us resonate with God.  The "tune" of that kind of vibratory match is like a "oneness" that is too beautiful for words.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A new church broadcast?


Here's some interesting news! 

You know how the church has a weekly broadcast of "Music and the Spoken Word"?  The Church had recently decided on an additional broadcast on a yet to be determined time/day. This broadcast will be "Scripture Study, and the Written Word"

It will be a broadcast by a member of the quorum of the twelve apostles, or general authority from a quorum of the 70 who will do a scripture study for any who would like to tune in.  The foundational scripture will be The Book of Mormon.  There will be no program outline, or agenda of how many verses to cover.  Participants are encouraged to bring, and use their scriptures.  

The broadcast will be a pure study of the scriptures.  The speaker will primarily use the written word as the teacher to expound and teach the doctrine of the Restoration.  The source material will be primarily a chosen scripture from the Book of Mormon.  However, all are invited to bring their sets of scriptures with all the standard works for cross reference and additional connections.  Participants will get a feel for the way in which scriptures were written, the Spirit of them, and learn to read the writings in new and enjoyable ways in their personal study.  Participants are invited to take the ideas presented and explore them in their own study.   

Since the book of Mormon is so vital to the restoration of the Church, it's been decided that the church as a whole would benefit from a weekly study of the written word of God.  Joseph Smith said: "I told the brethren, [the twelve Apostles] that the Book of Mormon was the most correct book of any on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book." JSHC 7 Vol., 4:461.

D&C 84 contains word from the Lord about the church being under condemnation for neglecting and not using the Book of Mormon.  This new broadcast is intended to encourage us towards higher ground and to prompt the members to study the Book of Mormon and work towards removing the condemnation.   

--End of my paraphrased news article.

I for one look forward to such a broadcast!

Ok, now for the actual facts.  That news above was just a teaser.  That broadcast isn't actually going to happen.  At least not to my knowledge since I thought it up just now as I wrote this.  But how awesome would it be? I would tune in, would you?  Just an idea.

In other news, you can put your profile up on one of the church's websites and it will read "Hi I'm _______ and I'm a Mormon".  You can put your testimony on there and help others know that Mormons are normal everyday folks.

The worth of a soul


This was a talk given in church last Sunday by a member of the High Council. I loved it.  The room had that peace when you know the Holy Ghost has come to teach.  I wanted to post it so more people can benefit from it than just those who attended my ward last week.

The Worth of a Soul

On Saturday May 17, 2008, a 1961 Ferrari California Spyder sold for over 10 million dollars at an auction in Italy.  At the time, according to the auctioneers, it was the highest price ever paid for a vintage car at auction.

The car was said to be one of only 56 ever built and had been owned by an actor who bought the car in 1964 after he filmed a popular movie.

An industry expert explained why the car sold for so much.  He said "I think it just shows that there's strong demand because you don't get to that type of number without strong demand." (http://money.cnn.com/2008/05/19/autos/record_ferrari_sale/index.htm?section=money_latest)

And that’s just how it is in this world—demand combined with rareness tends to determine value.  We see this rule applied every day.

For example,

·         Valuable precious metals are scarce while insignificant scrap metal is abundant.
·         Limited court-side seats at a sports arena sell for much more than the plentiful seats near the rafters.
·         And a rare coin is viewed as irreplaceable, while a common coin is considered expendable.

And basic economics supports this connection between scarcity, demand and price, since high demand coupled with low supply almost always raises the price of something.   This supply-demand approach to setting value is a useful way to distribute resources--in this world.

However, these rules of economics tend to permeate our experience in this life.  So we may come to believe they apply to more than just things like sports cars.  We may assume these rules of supply and demand apply to people.   Consequently, people with scarce titles, talents, traits or connections are frequently viewed as more important than those with more common characteristics.  But such thinking needs to be checked; since a celebrity is not worth more than someone who is not well known.  (Romans 2:11).  Yes, the talents or traits people offer in the marketplace may differ in value, but their worth as individuals don’t.

The Savior understood the difference between the world’s economy and God’s economy (D&C 77:6).  When tempted by the Pharisees to choose between the two, he said, “Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Mathew 22:17-21)

In this life we are exposed to these two economies.  When we are valued in the world’s economy, our ability to deliver the demands of this world often determines our worth.  When we are valued in God’s economy our worth has already been determined.  

This difference between heavenly and earthly valuations reminds me of when I was a teenager.  At home I was loved and valued always, even when I was in trouble.  However, at school my worth was constantly in flux.  And this hasn’t changed as I have grown older.   For example, when I travel, it seems that I am under constant pressure to accept that the worth of my soul depends on my frequent flyer status.

Indeed, it is a challenge to live in such an environment.   For instance, in Young Women’s class we learn that we have infinite worth.  But when looking for a job, we may not be worth an interview.  Likewise a young man may be good enough to be on the Lord’s team, but not good enough for the school team.  These types of experiences can be confusing.  And to make matters more difficult, most of our time is spent in the world—where people are often valued based on their status.   Accordingly, we may wonder, “Whose assessment of my personal worth should I believe—the Savior’s or the world’s?”   

The answer to this question depends on who we trust.  If we trust the world then our personal worth will be determined by other people.  And in consequence, we will endure unpredictable, junior-high-like popularity contests for the rest of our earthly existence—“where moth and rust doth corrupt” (Mathew 6:19)   If we trust the Savior, then we can know right now, with certainty, that the worth of our soul is truly “great in the sight of God”.  (D&C 18:10)

No wonder the Lord has commanded that we “should not…trust in the arm of flesh” (D&C 1:19), since doing so will surely tempt us to value ourselves and others like things rather than eternal beings. 

To be sure, some may honestly believe that people who live large lives have more worth than those who live smaller lives.  Nevertheless, The Book of Mormon Prophet Jacob warned against such error when he said, “Think of your brethren like unto yourselves…” (Jacob 2:17) and then later emphasized this point when he said “the one being is as precious in his sight as the other.” (Jacob 2:21)

In spite of this council, we are regularly subjected to earthly differentiations that are often “according to [our] riches and [our] chances for learning” (3 Nephi 6:12).    That’s one reason why I’m grateful for family.  I know of no people on this earth that are more accepting of my commonness than my wife, children, parents and siblings.  To them, I am unique.  Through them, I sense my eternal value.

Several years ago, when I was ten years old, I played on a competitive baseball team.  I remember when my coach asked me to pinch hit for one of my teammates during the last inning of an important game.  There were two outs, runners on base and our team was behind by two.  The bleachers were full of cheering spectators, and a hit would make me a hero.  I was nervous but too young and innocent to know the consequences of a poor showing.  I stepped up to the plate and looked at the pitcher who was two years older than I and seemed to be almost two times as tall. 

He was one of the best pictures in the league; and I was on stage ready to sink or swim in front of everyone.  Unfortunately, it took three swings for me to sink.  Yes…three straight, swinging strikes and the game was over and lost.

As I walked back to the dugout, I looked for assurance from my coaches and team mates, but that was not to be.  I felt alone; and as I lingered there in defeat, tears formed in my eyes.  I didn’t know what to do, so I took off running to the one place I knew I could go; the one place where I knew I would be accepted and valued regardless of what happened at the game that day.  I ran all the way home. 

When my parents caught up with me, I was in my bedroom feeling very small.  But my mother’s presence and a few encouraging words reversed the effects of feeling undervalued by the world’s economy.

Moments such as this may be one reason why the prophets have said, “The family is ordained of God.  It is the most important unit in time and in eternity.”  (Handbook 2, Section 1.1.1)  Maybe families are important because in them we are not market-priced but rather prized…simply because we are family.  Yes, families can help us to remember, as President Uchtdorf suggested, that we do indeed matter. (See Ensign October 2011 “You Matter to Him”)

In a family, we matter in spite of our quirks, inabilities or past mistakes.  We matter when we succeed and when we fail. We matter when the world judges us as undeserving.  Why?--because a family naturally tends to recognize the intrinsic worth of each family member.

To be fair, appreciating family members is not always easy, particularly when they are grouchy, lazy or rebellious.  It is difficult to love someone when our love is taken for granted or rejected.  But this natural tendency to love a family member even when that love seems to be one-sided is evidence of our spiritual linage, since our Heavenly Father is the perfect example of one-sided love.  The Book of Mormon tells of our Heavenly Father’s ability to endure our tendency to fancy this world over Him.  It reads:

“And again, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings,…yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, … yea, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not.”  (See 3 Nephi 10:5)

A family thrives on this ability to love without reserve.  Conversely, a family languishes when love is dependent upon status or performance.    In a similar fashion, a ward, which is sometimes referred to as a family, requires this same unconditional acceptance of its members, since viewing fellow ward members as extended family provides an expanded zone of safety in the midst of constant spiritual warfare.

Sometimes it is difficult to comprehend a place where everyone is equally loved and valued.  But this is primarily because we are accustomed to the world’s economy that is built on scarcity, where those with scarce titles, talents or traits are recognized and adored while others are often ignored.  Indeed we are surrounded by an economy where everything can run out, so we might wrongly assume that God’s love can run out before it reaches the serious sinner or the weak.

Brothers and Sisters if there is anything I have learned over the past few years, it is how abundantly our Father in Heaven loves the serious sinner; that he has the capacity to always be aware of those who are struggling with personal weakness.

The Savior once told of a young man who went to his father and said, “give me the portion of goods that falleth to me.”  So his father gave his son his inheritance.  Then, trusting that he could rely on this world to care for his best interest, the young man “took his journey into a far country and there wasted his substance with riotous living.”

When the young man had spent all that he had, he faced a harsh reality.  Namely, he came to understand that his recent popularity was not because the world valued him but because the world valued what he could give.   Consequently, when he couldn’t supply what the world demanded, he was left to live and eat with swine, and, as the scriptures say, “no man gave unto him.” (See Luke 15:11-32) 

At that point, the young man must have been feeling very small.  So what did he do?  He went to the one place he knew he could go; the one place where he knew he would be accepted and valued regardless of how the world had valued and then devalued him.  He went home.

I give you my testimony that in God’s economy every individual is prized and deeply loved by a Heavenly Father who knows that the worth of a soul has nothing to do with the marketplace. Indeed he has said, “I will make man more precious than fine gold”.  (Isa. 13:12)

I know that no matter what stage of family life we are in, no matter how imperfect or incomplete our families may be, we can stand against Satan’s effort to devalue the worth of a soul by ensuring that we do not allow the world’s economy to value Heavenly Father’s children.

I testify that we are God’s children.  He really is our Father in Heaven.  We are HIS family.

In the name of our brother Jesus Christ amen.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Our words


Mark 7:15 "There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man."


Why would Christ differentiate between what comes from without, (which goes into your belly and then is purged... and so on) and what comes from within (which deals with the heart)?

Our words matter, their content comes from within us.  They have the ability to reveal an inner spirit, and as Christ says later in Mark 7, what comes out of us can reveal what is actually defiles.  Our thoughts matter too (Mosiah 4:30).  At some point we'll have to give an accounting of the words we've spoken, which are linked to the desires of our hearts (Alma 12:14).  Our words can be used to condemn, to criticize, to injure, and to cause harm.  We are taught that our words will condemn us (Alma 12:14). Our own words likely are a portion of the measuring stick that gets applied back onto ourselves (Matthew 7:1-2, Alma 41). This isn't necessarily a comforting thought.  But....the Gospel always has the Perfect solution.  

Our words can also be used to bless someone, to inspire, or to speak truth.  The Lord can forgive our sins, he can put His Spirit within us through a rebirth.  He has made ample provisions for our shortcomings, and knows all too well the inner issues of our hearts.  When we come to Christ we find forgiveness, we find light, and a new life.  So what do you do then?  Same old same old?  I don't think so.  I think then our words are used to bless, to speak words of comfort, words of truth, and words that one would be happy to give an accounting of if ever called to do so.

I've been thinking the past few days about how we use our words.  After all it's not what we consume or take in that defiles us (see above scripture).  We get to choose the words we use.  We can speak words of anger and darkness, or we can speak words of a blessing to someone, or words of light in a world that really needs it.

Repentance and the commandments are never just avoiding something, or exclusively refraining from something.  It's doing something that brings light and joy to our soul and to God.  It's fun, and refreshing.  It brings light.  Receiving light from God is fun.  The Gospel is supposed to be a joy.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Is Priesthood Power Automatic?

In church the teacher began the third hour with this question.  "What is more important, the living prophet? Or the scriptures?"

What do you think?

Even posing the question shows how far our culture has come in it's view of Church office.  I had to differentiate between the "office" within the organization, and the heavenly power of the Priesthood.  Although culturally our mindset makes the two synonymous, there is a difference.  Elder Packer has actually addressed these two things when he comments that we as a church have been good about distributing the "authority" of the priesthood but it has raced ahead of distributing the "power" of the priesthood.  See: Boyd K Packer.  The Power of the Priesthood. April 2010.  

During the class, after about 5 comments supporting the idea that the living prophet is more important, the class as a whole then concluded that indeed the living prophet is more important than the scriptures.  The living prophet as we all know has come to refer to the current President of the Church, the man taught as holding, and able to exercise all priesthood keys.  When he passes away, we'll sustain his successor to the position.  In the minds of members, that person's importance is superior to the Scriptures containing God's word.

When a man becomes a member of the 12, or President of the Church, it appears it's then, and not before that he acquires the title "The Prophet", culturally speaking.  From the view of our present culture, the "position" in the church also bestows or is synonymous with the "power" of God to be a prophet.  Not everyone may see it this way, however it seems to be extremely common.  So to truly decide the original question of importance requires more than a cultural assumption.  

We sustain all 15 members of the Quorum of the 12 and First Presidency as "Prophets, Seers, and Revelators".  We sustain them as that, because that is the position they occupy.  As I've been taught and read in D&C this is how the Church has been set up.  So, from there the question arises:  Does being sustained (or ordained) to a position or title, automatically guarantee the position holder the respective power from heaven to act as those? Or does the sustaining grant them only the "right" or authority to act as such for the Church?  You see how this could be a meaningful distinction?  One obligates God to bestow power.  The other obligates man to connect with God or else remain powerless.  The 'right' or "authority" to do something vs the heavenly Priesthood Power to carry it out is different.  For me this helps clarify the original question.  I can see in scripture many people who clearly have the power of heaven, most of whom held no religious office. 

Is Priesthood power automatic upon ordination to an office?  If it does, it would seem ambition to gain high positions, or aspiring to be president of the church gains you the ability to act as God with God's power.  That's just wrong.  

Jesus held no position of authority, yet He clearly held God's power.  Christ in Matthew 23 says the scribes and Pharisees sit "in Moses' seat" (or a legitimate position with legal rights to act in the Church) yet were not worthy of being followed "but do not as they do".  So you can hold office, but not be worthy of being followed.  So then how can office alone be more important than scripture?  Christ said to listen to and observe what they bid you to do, but he taught NOT to do as they do.  "For they say and do not."

The scriptures contain God's word, He has confirmed it and taken responsibility for those words.  The question of importance posed at the beginning of the post is one each of us can and should answer.  The implications are an extremely important indicator.  

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Iron Rod


The iron rod.  So why iron? Why not steel, or gold, or any of the other more attractive elements?

Lehi's dream, which Nephi also gets a vision of, is where we find the well known iron rod.  The iron rod, which represents the Word of God (Christ),  is how we get through the mists of darkness.

Iron as we all know is notorious for corroding. It gets rusty when in the presence of air and water. And it's heavy. What an interesting choice of elements. Why iron? Could have been steel, brass, copper, gold....the folks back then knew of all these elements. Iron as used in the scriptures is often in reference to it's strength or fortitude. Interesting connections. Is not God's word notorious for becoming corroded by our fallen sphere? The truth corrodes if we do not preserve it, take care of it, and keep it pure. Although it may not be shiny and pretty all the time, and it may not always be smooth to the touch, none the less Lehi informs us this element is what describes the rod, and the way through the mists of darkness.

Iron is also not a "precious" metal. It's not desired by the world for gain. So this idea of an iron rod also communicates a rod that will not necessarily be attractive and desired by the world. But the humble will not care, they will hold on to it for very different reasons.

The mists of darkness from Lehi's dream forced people to keep their hand(s) upon the Iron Rod. The mists of darkness are in a way gate keepers which say, “Nobody shall come to the tree from any other way than by the Word of God.” You don't just stumble onto the scene, or receive the blessings through someone else's experiences. Nobody crashes the party at the tree of life. Outsiders may stand and mock, but they are locked out by their own refusal to do and follow the instructions to get there, (or remain there as the case may be).  As a side note, it's interesting to me that Lehi see's the iron rod, yet himself never touched it.

No one crashes the party at the tree of life. haha. I have to credit John Pontius who was the first person to use that phrase that I know of.

So if we substitute something else for the word of God, and then hold fast to it, can we hope to end up at the tree of life?? That would be as if we got deceived on the directions to get to the source. Or have just made a foolish choice to find some other party to go to.

So it sounds to me like it's dangerous to replace the word of God, especially the Book of Mormon with something more convenient, more shiny, or something that only says positive things about us, or heaven forbid some replacement mingled with the philosophies of man claiming to be the truth. Those "rods of iron" don't lead to the same place as the one in Nephi's vision.

Certainly we shouldn't replace this powerful rod with something which has no power to save. The word of God has eternal power. Man's words don't, unless of course they are approved by or come from Heaven. So trusting in a man's words isn't the iron rod.  "Approved by heaven" isn't the same as being approved by the correlation committee.  The difference is incredible.  Committee's historically are not a trustworthy alternate and are a poor substitute for God's direct word.  We need to distinguish between committee's approval, and heavens approval.

There are many substitutes that suppress the actual voice of God in our lives. I'm thinking of a few right now. There are so many. So many "great", admired, and respectable things to cling to and gaze on. There is so much we can "hold fast to" that simply is not the Iron Rod.

Alternate rods include incorrect or incomplete beliefs. Which could be termed "unbelief". Perhaps it's that we don’t believe that the Still Small Voice is real. Perhaps we don't believe it comes from God, and actually is the pathway to the sacred and eternal. We may believe it's figments of a deranged mind. It could also be that we hear it, but don’t “believe” we are obligated to obey. Or have expended effort to ignore the promptings long enough that now doing so is a habit.

It could also show up as a mindset that “Revelation only happens to important people, people with high up callings, for important things, and the rest us have to use our own intellect, and then pray for God’s confirmation to go ahead with what we were planning to do anyway.” Our prayers down that path are more like “Please bless me to make my own plans work”"  Other alternate iron rods are words from men.

I'm writing this from a place like that of anyone else. Which is guilty of many many errors and incorrect/incomplete beliefs. But I write as part of my ongoing effort to repent from the errant ways. And having glimpsed the truth, now I can't help but reach upwards further.

The Unpleasant Condemnation of the Church

This post is a bunch of thoughts I had in my mind this morning.

Lots of things in the Gospel I've noticed come together, meaning in pairs. When you have one, you'll pretty much always have the other. When you have condemnation, you will also have deception. They seem to be kind of joined at the hip. If there's one thing people do not like to contemplate, its condemnation. And therefore, deception. Especially the kind that they may be involved in. Makes me squirm too. But avoiding it doesn't fix it. So with that in mind here's a scriptural recap of the Church's status:

-In 1830 the Lord called the church “true and living” (D&C 1:30). This was 2 years after it was organized.

-By 1832 the Lord stated that the church is “condemned” "even all" (D&C 84:54-57). Failure to appreciate the Book of Mormon (of all things) and the former commandments brought the whole church under condemnation. He said they would remain under this condemnation until the requirements were met.

-By 1841 the Lord says He has taken the fullness of the priesthood away from the church and it would need to be restored (D&C 124:28). The conduct of the saints was such that priesthood fullness was taken away. And to date, the LDS Church has never claimed to have gotten revelatory word from the Lord restoring it. We have to rely on assumption. The Lord said they would be rejected as a Church and cut off if they didn't complete the Nauvoo Temple. And we know that the saints barely even got to use half the structure before being expelled from the city and forced to move westward.  Then the temple got destroyed and burned by a mob, then a tornado took a turn destroying what was left. 

But going back to the condemnation:D&C 84:54-56. This is the Lord talking, 2 years after the statement about the Church being true and living. 
54 And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—55 Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.56 And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.
This church-wide condemnation has been referred to by modern members of the quorum of the 12, president of the church and general authorities. According to them, the condemnation referred to has not yet been lifted. 
  • Ezra Taft Benson April 1986 General Conference
  • Marion G Romney 1980  
  • Russell M Nelson October 1999 General Conference 
  • -1986- General Conference: Ezra Taft Benson:  We have made some wonderful strides in the past. We will be lengthening our stride in the future. To do so, we must first cleanse the inner vessel by awaking and arising, being morally clean, using the Book of Mormon in a manner so that God will lift the condemnation, and finally conquering pride by humbling ourselves. 
  • Elder Oaks June 6 th 1993: “Along with other General Authorities, I have a clear recollection of the General Authority temple meeting on 5 March 1987. For a year, President Benson had been stressing the reading of the Book of Mormon. Repeatedly he had quoted these verses from the Doctrine and Covenants, including the Lord’s statement that the Saints’ conduct had “brought the whole church under condemnation” (D&C 84:55). In that temple meeting, President Benson reread those statements and declared, “This condemnation has not been lifted, nor will it be until we repent.
  • LDS.org 2010 from Elder Oaks: https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2010-07-070-the-church-under-condemnation?lang=eng

"True and living" and "condemned" are not synonyms. We can't take what the Lord said in 1830 and skip everything in between and go applying the earlier description to ourselves in our day. That wouldn't make any sense to do that.

But ours is the only true church, and we all have a testimony of it, right? People say that every single Sunday, but that doesn't change the unpleasant truth. Unless we can convince ourselves that the condemnation isn't real, then we can all go back to sleep. That however doesn't satisfy me. I'd like to remove that condemnation from me personally. So I've been thinking a lot about all this.

Going back to the first part of this post. So whats the deception that caused or is embedded in the condemnation we are under? It must be VERY pervasive. Must be core and fundamental to our thinking. Vanity and unbelief most likely. And they have caused The Book of Mormon to be neglected which brought about the condemnation. That makes sense.

The comfortable deception is always the nasty one. If were human, and live in this world, thinking we have always avoided deception is probably a very deceptive thought. Deception covers it's own tracks. It attempts to causes a false sense of security and comfort, and apparently the teaching is very well received. When someone points it out, or speaks of the need to repent, it hurts because it disrupts the sense of security (which was false anyway).

So it's not rude, unkind, or negative for inspired things to find there way into our lives. Harshness can be incredibly kind. It helps me to think of that in order to understand why Christ and his followers are mistreated and often killed because of their message to repent. No one wants to hear the truth when they are embedded in lies. Even though harkening is the very thing that would save them. Pride prevents it.

The book of Mormon is for the most part written by prophets about fallen people. So it's a good manual for identifying deception because the majority of the subjects (people) spoken of are under it. The authors are usually the folks who have found their way out. What an excellent example they are of removing condemnation. According to D&C WE are the condemned subjects just like the ones in the book of Mormon. Probably why were supposed to read about them so we can wake up, and stop being vain, and come to the Light.

I have to say, as part of my own testimony that the condemnation the Lord speaks of is accurate. After taking those words seriously and doing my best to personally get out from under the condemnation, the results have been nothing short of shocking. Absolutely shocking. It's an ongoing attempt, I'm human and prone to many errors. The Lord however has responded to my attempt and I find on occasion I say to myself "How could I have been so blind".

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Attitude towards leaders

I found this from the George Albert Smith manual appropriate regarding our attitude towards our leaders.  Page 63. 

"We would do well if we would magnify and honor these men he has placed at our head.  They are men with human frailties, they will make mistakes, but if we will be as charitable to the mistakes they make as we are to our own failures and mistakes, we will see their virtues as we see our own."

"If we will be as charitable to the mistakes that they make as we are to our own failures..." 

I liked that thought.  None of us are worthy without Christ, and none of us are without mistake.  No matter what our calling.  That's why we are invited to rely on the Holy Ghost and follow Jesus Christ, not just men. But as George says, we do well to show charity towards those who are called to lead who are human like any of us.  I don't read the part that says "honor them" as in we should worship or celebritize those called to lead.  To me that would be a mistake and be idolatry.  I do read it to mean that we show charity, and sustain and pray for them.  If they speak by the Holy Ghost, we follow those promptings.  And when those moments occur we are following the Spirit, not just a man.  But it is up to us to distinguish those moments from the rest.

I like the idea of mirroring the heavens.  The heavens send rain upon the just and the unjust.   

So I read that statement to mean we should look to heaven, and then as "Da Jesus Book" (Bible in the vernacular of the Island people) says:  "Go, make li dat".

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dog wake

Had a great moment today while walking the dog. He's just a little guy, maybe 14 pounds. Most of what looks like his body is fluffy fur that is starting to get long enough to cover his eyes.

Anyway we were walking around the park and at this park almost all the leaves have fallen off the trees. The sidewalks going around the park have sections of pure leaves where you can't see the sidewalk.

Moki, on walks, alternates between running ahead by about 100 ft or hang back about a hundred feet to sniff around or mark his favorite shrubs. Then he'll realize his distance from me and come running back to rejoin the walking pace. Today during one of his hang back moments he looked up and saw me way ahead of him. When this happens he looses interest in whatever smell he was investigating and comes running full speed towards me. Usually about as fast as he can run. So today this happened while on one of the leaf sections of the sidewalk.

As he's running full speed, his facial fur was blown back tight against his face, eyes were watering and he's sprinting as fast as his little paws can carry him. The image alone makes me laugh. But then we had the leaves today. His little 7mph sprint created enough wind to blow a bunch of leaves up behind him. It looked like a wake of leaves. The look of joy on his little face with a wake of leaves in trail was quite funny.

Probably one of the funnier things I've seen in a while. Here's this little dog, running full sprint, with a big noisy wake of leaves behind him. hahaha. It made it look like he was running faster than he was. Very very funny image. I wish I had brought a camera.

Communication from The Holy Ghost

Came upon an interesting thought today.

"How many times a day all of us hear the Holy Ghost but make an effort not to listen?"

After bypassing the initial offense I take to the idea, it does make me rethink and consider some important things. Sobering to think about. So often it's human nature to think forthcoming and direct ideas like that could NEVER apply to us. But I think a person stands to gain far more from at least considering such things than dismissing them as not applicable to them.

Worth thinking about. How many times a day do we get promptings from the Holy Ghost?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Judging and hypocrisy

I think the second we judge someone else, it's extremely likely that at that precise moment we also become a hypocrite.  We often judge others of the very same things we are guilty of (Romans 2:1).  And since we are all guilty of some sin, or some stupidity (Romans 3:23), it makes no sense to judge those things in others.  Therefore by passing judgment, we also convict ourselves.  There's a double standard when we judge of others, things that we ourselves do (even if we are blind to them).      

It makes sense then that the way to avoid being a hypocrite is to not judge.  Because if you don't judge, there won't be a double standard that you are not living up to.  So the key is to set a standard for others that you can also pass.  If you pass the standard you set for others, than there is no double standard, and therefore no hypocrisy within you.  I like this thought.  Christ in the scriptures says to "Judge not least ye be not judged".  Such few words that say so much.    

I think it's possible to interact with others, observe their actions and behaviors, and perhaps disagree strongly at times, yet all the while not passing judgement on them.  I'm going to attempt that.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Surrender

I remember a time in my life when I had this incredible motivation to make myself something good.  I looked for every book, every philosophy, every everything that could potentially help in this effort.  I tried all sorts of things.  My motive was good, but everything was all tangled up with the philosophies of man.  I recognized that the scriptures spoke of what I wanted, and that was largely the source for the desire to become something good.  But inevitably philosophies of man got mingled in.   

I included God in the effort because, this was important, and at the time I saw it as a means of further accomplishing the goal. 

Yes I may have improved some skills and abilities.  Those have their place.  But that would never satisfy one of the inner desires of the heart.  God did answer the prayers I offered.  The answer however was completely shocking to me.  I got what i needed, not necessarily the thing I was headed towards. The answer included pretty much the opposite of what I had been doing.  It reoriented my life.  Jesus Christ and His Gospel became the foreground, and everything else became the background.   

The answer also had to do with surrender.  Realizing that if anything good was going to happen, it would be due to Him, not me.  I saw what "Good" really means, and that man is nothing.  The Gospel offered what I really wanted, the philosophies of man only caused problems and pride.