Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Missing Manhood

This post stems from a terrible trend that needs to be called out.  

Here is the post

"I’ve decided that I must apologize for my endeavors of late. (X) year(s) ago this week I tricked one of societies most sweet, loving, and wonderful members into marrying such a wretch as myself. In order to repay my debt.... I vow to serve and honor, paying due respect to this marvelous individual who is my wife. I shall love her for all eternity and ever be grateful for her sacrifice..."

Or here is another:

_________ made me the luckiest guy in the world by letting me marry her.

And another:  This is what married men do on Saturdays... i.e. Whatever their wives say so they can watch football Saturday night.

There is a bit of a trend among male church members that is illustrated by this. It's the "put self down, in order to elevate the woman" thing. The idea of respecting, and showing love towards women in our life is of course good.  But if done at the expense of yourself, and in a way that makes her loose any and all confidence in the man, then a wake up call is in order.  Especially that second example communicates that sometimes guys value themselves as the object of a woman's pity and luck.  Instead of being a mature man, who adds value to her life.  It's that he's "lucky".  Instead of saying "how lucky he is" he could instead point how how wonderful his wife is, and how he is not a half bad catch himself.  It affirms her intelligence in that she chose a great guy.

This is part of a bigger societal problem.  In the media, TV, and Movies, men are becoming more and more portrayed as weak, fat, slobs, loosers, or incompetent.  Even in Disney movies the men are becoming the ones who need to be rescued.  They have lost the protector and provider roles.  They are often objects of laughter.  That is not manhood.  I think men are being emasculated and it's not good.    

But along the lines of the original quote.  If someone needs to apologize sincerely for something, they should. However, sometimes guys will speak about their wife, and in that context "by contrast" will lower themselves even below a level of self respect. I don't fully know why this occurs. The above post is just one example. It undermines their own good qualities and in the process make it difficult for their spouse to develop and maintain respect for them. This should cause warning flags. Being humble before God is good. Humility, and respect in a relationship is also good. However this other stuff that happens when talking about the opposite sex is downright painful. I've never met a female who actually liked it, I've asked many many of them.

Sometimes its sarcastic, and will get a laugh, or a small gesture of  semi-affection "awww". However, there is more going on under the surface. These kinds of comments shows that a guy does not know how to indirectly communicate. Some guys even do this weird public humility thing and say from the pulpit that "their wife got the poor end of the marriage deal".  Or how he "Married up".   How is that supposed to make her feel?  So they did she marry down?  Is that going to increase her respect and confidence in him? How could it? The translation of that comment is: "I"m pretty much a looser, a bum, and not likely to ever change".  Not a good message to send. Ever.  Then she too looks dumb.  This kind of talk isn't worth any number of cheap laughs. It can leave the other party feeling complimented but at the same time very empty, and sometimes embarrassed.

Common sense tells us a woman would want to be able to respect the men in their life, and would like to have confidence in him.  But guys sometimes make it so incredibly hard for them to do so because they don't think about what they are saying.  At some point we all need to become aware of what we indirectly communicate by our words and thoughtless actions.  It's mind boggling when you actually think about it.  There is no real good reason for a man to make himself look like a total idiot in order to compliment his wife. Perhaps it's that we've heard others do it, and so we do.  But no matter how many people do a thing, numbers do not make it right.

Now I have to say that of course it's ok to acknowledge and work to better the things in your life that need to change. Obviously. And it can be done in a mature way.  I've seen guys demonstrate incredible public humility appropriately.  What I'm talking about is not that.

I think we would all much more enjoy seeing a man who honors and respects the women in his life, while at the same time showing a confident mature masculinity from inside him.  Showing that he was actually a good choice of spouse even if he has things he is working to improve.  This is "manhood".  But it seems to sometimes be missing, and it's a tragic loss.  It sets a poor example.  Now I'm not saying to be self absorbed, or be domineering.  No, it's just a simple, mature, old school, God given confident manhood.  Sort of like an anchor in a way.  Solid, secure, grounded, and able to handle a storm.

Jesus taught that praying and fasting "to be seen of men" is not helpful.  I wonder if being humble "to be seen of men" or "to be seen of your spouse" is not a good idea either.  Worth thinking about anyway.

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For an enjoyable and highly entertaining website on the lost art of manliness and a host of great articles go here:  www.artofmanliness.com  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Plainness

Nephi says : "I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell."

"For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding.  2 Nephi 31:3

I like hearing this, a prophet of God glories and delights in plainness.  That's encouraging to me.  He says after the manner of plainness doth the Lord God work among the children of men.  This is not the incomprehensible, unknowable God of some Historic Christian creeds.  Nephi is talking about a God who speaks according to my language and my understanding.  How refreshing, for once I don't need another college degree.

The opposite of plain is fancy, ornate, or complicated.  Sometimes things that have little merit of it's own need those things to compensate.  It needs slick marketing, and all sorts of bells and man made light in order to appear to have value.  Fancy and new ornate things will often catch the mind and are often used intentionally because marketers also know about to catch our attention.  But the truth doesn't need that stuff.  The truth reaches my heart all the time without it.  I find that also to be refreshing.

I like what Nephi says:  The truth is plain.  It's how the Lord works.  This isn't to say some issues are not complicated, because they are.  But I've noticed even things I thought were complicated, can, with light, become plain, and understandable.  It spoils you in a way, and thereafter all the worldly marketing gloss, and pretty advertising paint are much less alluring.   

When the scriptures say our minds are darkened, and blind, this gives me pause.  For the Jews, Jacob tells us their blindness of mind came from "looking beyond the mark"  Jacob 4:14.  Sometimes it's easy to look past the plainness of the "Word of God".  "The Word of God" is Christ (John 1:1).  He is what we should look to, otherwise as vs 14 says,  they/we will stumble and fall.   The members of the Church are the ones who claim to have a testimony of the Book of Mormon, so we should read such words as if speaking directly to us.  Otherwise we are blind to the plain and simple words written.

I have a testimony of the plain and simple nature of the truth.  It gives light to my understanding, it engages my mind in a way that is enjoyable.  Often it's counter-intuitive and requires me to change.  So it's not always easy, but it's plain, and according to "my language" as Nephi says.  It's as if God wants us to have confidence we can understand His words.  I think he does. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Mind



There is an area of the human brain called "Broca's Region" that is constantly anticipating what is about to happen.  When what is anticipated occurs, it gets discounted.  This is beneficial for the mind to do in order to conserve resources, and not be constantly using it's energy when it doesn't need to.  The equation in the mind becomes: predictable = discounted. Or maybe even: predicable = boring.  If you have kids, or are dating, it's good to keep in mind that being boring and predictable is almost a sin.  

But back to the mind thing.  It's like one of Dad's old jokes. We all know the first few words of dad, or grandpa's overly used and overly told jokes. Even from the first word spoken, certain people's eyes in the family begin to roll. Because we allll know what's coming. Or it's like when you leave the house your mom/dad/wife/husband etc... will say "Now make sure you drive safe" We expect it, and when what we anticipate is spoken or happens, part of the mind tends to discount it, and doesn't really listen. "yeah yeah yeah" is what this part of the brain could be nicknamed.

I think this may relate to some of our blindness of mind when it comes to the Gospel.  Especially the scriptures.  We gloss over things all the time.  For too long we have put the Book of Mormon INTO our own rigid structure rather than let the book INFORM us.  The more we hear it, the more the mind says "yeah yeah yeah", and skips it. I think this can happen especially for life long members.  It has for me anyway.  We may have heard the words and stories so many times we think we know who and what the words are referring to, and therefore the mind either discounts it, or we miss the plainness of what is actually said.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Modern Day Changes

I was part of a dinner conversation recently that I thought was interesting.

While discussing the modern LDS board games available for purchase, one person jokingly brought up the idea of General Authority trading cards.  On the back they proposed would be the persons stats, ie.. number of revelations received, number of verses which were added to the cannon of scripture, number of "likes" or "fans" on Facebook.  Number of degrees awarded, or years as a GA.  Everyone laughed, but it was also a fairly good indicator of how we view our leaders.  They are a bit like celebrities.

The conversation shifted to seminary and institute.  Most people I know are not yet aware that the Church Educational System limits what doctrines, topics, and books (TPJS), that are allowed to be taught or used. Correlation is a department at the Church Office building and it limits most teachings about the "fullness of the Gospel" from Sunday school manuals and institute/seminary materials.  So if you want to find these doctriens you'll need to search them out on your own.  As the institution grows, other priorities seem to dominate the agenda. For example previously, CES teachers were given the opportunity to visit the Holy Land, and gain from an experience there as part of their training. This was done away with a few years ago. It was deemed "not worth the investment" by the system.

I didn't talk much during the conversation and my mind wandered towards a scripture.  The scriptures are often speaking about something they term people's collective "slumber".  It's as if we are asleep, in a dream, and totally distracted.  But like people who are asleep, they don't know they are asleep until you wake them up. But in our culture we keep taking sleep aids to keep us in this unconscious state.  One sleep aid are the mantra's we chant to ourselves.  "All is well"  "Zion prospereth"  "Financially we as a church have never been better"  "Follow the Prophet, he can't lead astray" "I know this Church is true".  These things are like soothing words that are pretty effective "sleep" aids.

Anyway it was an interesting dinner conversation.  This also sparks some other thoughts about modern day changes in the Church.  The Full time missionaries came to our house a few nights ago.  I asked them what some of the big challenges are that they face working here in Utah.  They said "people either hate us or love us".  Folks already have their minds made up before the missionaries even open their mouth.  Thankfully the Elders had the desire to have the Spirit to counter the challenges they face.  But how I'm sure the adversary wants them instead to start relying on Babylon's tactics, tools of marketing, tools of science, and any non Spirit based tool to counter what they deal with.  I asked the missionaries how they counter these challenges.  Their responses were good.  I enjoy having the missionaries over.  Towards the end of their response its clear how easily  marketing philosophy can slip in and become the methods of teaching the Gospel vs the simple truth and plain humility of the Spirit.  I see this at high levels of the Church too.

Elder Marlin Jensen (Recently released Church Historian and Recorder) at a recent religious studies class at USU is quoted in the news as saying "The church has a very progressive research and information division, with tremendous public opinion surveyors," he said. Among other steps, it has hired an expert in search-engine optimization to raise the profile of the church's own views in a web search.

Blinds and Scales

As I opened the blinds of my bedroom window today, I had to consider the concept of blinds.  In the context of the gospel, there are blinds in us that we must open if we want light to shine through.  Or as an alternative we can continue sleeping in darkness.

As Hugh Nibley has said, "nobody likes to be awakened from a deep sleep. So we choose to sleep on."  But Christ is saying to "awake, and arise" in a number of ways and places (D&C 88:83, 2 Ne. 1:13-14, Jacob 3:11).  Gospel nap time shouldn't last until it's too late.  And so "it becometh every man which has been warned to warn his neighbor".  The scriptures are warning everyone.  We should take the warning seriously and consider the call to open the blinds.  "Scales" is how it's put in Acts 9:18.  

I remember when for me,"scales as they were" fell from my eyes.  Such things and ideas as were presented had never entered my mind, nor my heart.  I had never conceived of such things as then became visible.  I could not and cannot forget, nor deny the experience.  Its etched into my mind and heart.  "Scales" instantly struck me as an appropriate word when I heard it. I did not know what to call it at first. I spontaneously wanted to say "wherefore i was blind, but now i see".

 It was years ago but is still vivid in my mind. As vivid as what I did 10 minutes ago. In fact more vivid. It's not only "real life" it's almost "super real". That's perhaps not the best word, but I don't know how else to describe something that is more real than most other moments of my life. And all of this, not of myself, I'm not capable of it. It was actual light from God. It was illuminating and brought joy beyond what I had known possible. It's my testimony that these things are true, and they happen.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Eyes of Faith Pt 2

"All things whatsoever God in his infinite wisdom has seen fit and proper to reveal to us, while we are dwelling in mortality, in regard to our mortal bodies, are revealed to us in the abstract, and independent of affinity of this mortal tabernacle, but are revealed to our spirits precisely as though we had no bodies at all."
TPJS p. 355

When Joseph had some of his revelations it's interesting to ask what an onlooker who was at the same place may have seen.  Someone looking through the window for example may have just seen a guy sitting there, or lying there, or looking at a piece of glass or a stone.  We may miss the point of how God works if we think about setting up a hidden video camera while President Monson is in the temple in order to get a sneak peak at some special secret meeting.

While Joseph Smith may have been gazing into heaven, the guy 5 feet away may have seen Joseph gazing upwards, but when he looked at the wall or ceiling would have wondered what is so special about those rafters.  It's possible no one else in the room may have any idea what was occurring.  You can't cheat that, or trick your way in with technology, or engineering.  Had we been able to peak out around some trees in the sacred grove, we may have seen a Joseph passed out on the ground, meanwhile he was in contact with God.

There are other times when the Savior has been visible to the parties present but was not recognized.  As on the road to Emmaus.  The two disciples spoke with the risen Lord for some length of time without recognizing who they were speaking with.  The indication was the burning in their hearts as He spoke.

Then there are times when people knew who he was, and could see him, but still couldn't "see" him for who he truly was.

We can't rely on another's faith.  At some point we must allow the Lord to assist us in developing our own faith, degree by degree.  Who can doubt that we need eyes of faith?  Without it, it will be hard to see with our eyes themselves.  Faith is a gift, and it's the first principle of the Gospel.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Eyes of Faith

A recent news article talks about a number of members of the LDS church who have recently lost faith in the gospel (abc news article).  Some of them no longer believe in the existence of God.

It's incredible how there is a counter view, and an alternate explanation for everything related to faith.  No matter what the issue is, whether it's scripture, the restoration, doctrine, religion, God, war, earthquakes, or disease epidemics.  Anything can be explained away with science, psychology, social science, some arm of the flesh tool, or chalked up to a "creation of the mind" or mere coincidence involving chance and statistics.  I had to admit that some atheist claims about about God being a creation of the mind has some merit.  The God described by them does often sound like a mental creation.  So in a way they are right. But the claim of faith is that there is a true and living God, even if people do create a mental God, and then disbelieve in it.            

There is always an alternative to faith.  There is doubt and skepticism on the one hand, and faith on the other.  And you have to choose.  Sometimes every day.  Of those who travel the road of doubt and disbelief, none of them have what I desire.  They may have great worldly respect and power, but that doesn't last.  The folks in scripture do have what I desire, and so I accept and seek to gain the view and experiences that scripture authors have.  Interestingly sometimes people critical of me, actually help me leave stuff behind that I agree is a social construction, a creation of the mind, or a tradition not based on truth.  I think the truth holds up under close inspection.  President J. Reuben Clark taught: "If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed" (Quinn, The Church Years, p 24.)

Pretty much any event can be explained away as anything and everything BUT God's hand.  Isaiah would describe world events and trends very differently than USA Today does.  Miracles can be brushed off as coincidence.  People can claim their own efforts achieved results (Deut. 8:17(Judg. 7:2).  A much needed gift showing up on the porch could be "other people's kindness" and not God.  Even Angels visits do not remove skepticism or alter the view for those who are not ready to view things in the proper light (IE the angel that stopped Lamen and Lemuel from beating up Nephi).

The adversary provides us and our minds with alternate, and skeptical explanations for everything.  But if we want to develop faith, and I think almost all of us do, we need to stop viewing life that way.  Especially your life.  It's easy with stories like David and Goliath for example.  We know who won, and we've heard the story from the point of view of a bible author for years. But it can be a bit harder to do this with events in 2012 and your own life.  But we have to, even if it starts on a small and humble scale.  It's our eye of faith that must develop, it's ours that will help us and bring us joy, not that of someone else.  

Joseph taught that "when you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the gospel--you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation."

Relating that to our eyes of faith, one rung on this ladder is, without a doubt, leaving behind the view that God is distant, disconnected, and uninvolved in our personal lives.  And instead start seeing or at least being open to a very different view.  The scriptures teach that God is incredibly involved.  Even involved in the most wicked of times, people and places.  By descending below all things He is able to be in and through all things (D&C 88:41).  Even if someone denies it, rejects it, and insists on being oblivious to it, the true and living God is present in each life.  And God is Good (Ether 4:12).  Not seeing God's hand in life is probably a big part, if not the central part of the blindness we are supposed to overcome. You can't really remain blind, and develop an eye of faith at the same time.

Explaining away events is typically not a good idea.  D&C teaches that in nothing doth man offend God but those who acknowledge not his hand in all things... (D&C 59:21).   If repentance is what God continually asks of us, this seems like a good place to give adequate attention since it's one of the two things mentioned that offend Him.  I think embedded in that scripture is that God wants so very much to be involved personally, and with mankind. I for one, don't want to offend. I think we can all probably sense to some degree why it would be offensive to our creator when we brush off the degree of His involvement, or fail to see it.

Having eyes to see, and ears to hear, and a mind to understand are frequently mentioned in scripture. These are great qualities no business will give a raise for, and they are not part of the temple recommend interview. You can't really measure them and there is no blood test at the doctors office to analyze it. But heaven notices. And when we correspondingly notice heaven, what a beautiful thing the mutual recognition is.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

As though He had already come

Mosiah 3:13

"And the Lord God hath sent his holy prophets among all the children of men, to declare these things to every kindred, nation, and tongue, that thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy, even as though he had already come among them."

The Lord's holy prophets declare "these things".... repentance, and faith in Jesus Christ.  They testify of the Lord's coming, his life, death, and resurrection.  They point to Him, and not men because they want others to have the same joy and assurance they have.  Which of course does not come by man, it's comes from God which is why they point there.  They give examples of how this faith and hope is not time dependent, it's independent of time.  It states that exceedingly great joy, and a remission of sins was available before Christ came.  It was as though he had already come.  There was a time delay in man's measurement of time, but for them the truth is timeless.  They gave thanks as if the future had already happened.  The time interval seemed to vanish. See also (Jacob 4:4) (Ether 12:19).

So what does this mean for us?  Can we, through our faith, experience the reality of things to come, as if they already happened?  Is this what hope is?  If God's word will assuredly come to pass then how important and joy filled would it be to obtain the word of God to you personally?  What once was a mystery can take on incredible clarity and light when enlightened through the Spirit of God.  If God cannot lie, and he cannot, then would His word be just as good as if it had already come to pass?    

There is a conditional phrase in this verse that reads: "might receive".  It's available, but not if we don't want it, or believe its only available to people with special organizational callings.  But it's possible to get our minds and heart into the right state to build faith.  The Spirit can lead us there.  The Holy Ghost is offered to us as a guide and companion.

"And there were many whose faith was so exceedingly strong, even before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad."   -Ether 12:19

Here's another scripture a lot like the first one.  More folks for whom time gave way to timeless revelation.  Seems to me revelation is timeless.  Now isn't that comforting.  They "truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith".  They obtained hope. It teaches that they, and us, see with the eye of faith first, then with the eyes themselves.  So where's my faith eye?  How do I open that eye?

This reminds me of scriptures where some visually capable people are called blind.  And why scriptures also say to "dispute not because ye see not".  It's not the pupil, and iris and optic nerve.... it's something else.

I don't know that "seeing with an eye of faith" is something that comes like an elephant barging into our minds. I think it's more of a small, personal invitation to calm the mind, and get it into alignment.  I don't know that an eye of faith is just something you find under the couch cushion while looking for the remote.  It would make sense that it develops with effort, and the TV most times is not helping.  In Lectures on Faith 7:3 we learn that "when a man works by faith he works by mental exertion instead of physical force."

Imagine what the minds of those glad folks in Ether 12:19 were accustomed to dwelling upon. The altitude of the thoughts would be a wee bit loftier than the weekly discussions that occur during priesthood opening exercises on Sundays.  I mean the jokes are funny the first 10 times you hear them.

Orson Pratt on this subject writes, “If a person trains his mind to walk in the spirit, and brings his whole mind to bear upon its operations, and upon the principles of faith which are calculated to put him in possession of the power of God, how much greater will be his faculties for obtaining knowledge” (Journal of Discourses 7:155–56).

"A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination beware of; because the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God." Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 137

"Thy mind, oh man!"

On that note here's a great clip from Star Wars about the weak minded.   clip

Monday, September 17, 2012

Hope is an Anchor Part 2

continued from last post....

The Anchor of the Soul

Hebrews 6:19 says, “ Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; 

God’s use of the anchor to represent the believer’s Hope is appropriate and poignant. An anchor keeps a boat from drifting away with the currents or being blown away in a storm. Thus, using an anchor to describe the purpose of the Christian hope makes perfect sense. When a Christian has a clear picture of what he is hoping for in the future, especially the rewards that the Lord will give to those who have earned them, it helps to keep him from “drifting away” from his commitment and becoming involved with the sinful pleasures and abundant temptations offered by the world. It also helps to prevent him from being “blown away” from God during the storms of life.

Because the Hope was referred to as an “anchor,” the anchor was the earliest known Christian symbol. It was used to represent the Hope of resurrection unto everlasting life. At Pompeii, the Roman city buried by lava in 79 AD when Mt. Vesuvius erupted, a ring was discovered with a beautiful image of an anchor and the Greek word elpis, “hope,” inscribed on it.[1] Some of the earliest Christian graves have an anchor carved into the rock next to them.[2] Christians today use a cross as their common symbol, but there is no reference to the cross being a revered Christian image until after the Roman Empire became Christian. The cross was so abhorred as an instrument of torture that no early Christians venerated it. Historically, the first interest in the image of the cross came after Queen Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, reportedly found the “true cross” on her trip to Israel in 326 AD.[3]  Before that time, the anchor was the symbol that the early Christians used to show their hope of resurrection and a wonderful, everlasting future.

The Psychological Value of Hope

The Adversary has made a concerted attack on the subject of the Hope because of the value that it has to anchor people to godliness and truth.  One of the reasons the Hope is an anchor for the Christian life is that hope energizes people and gives them strength to endure in a way that nothing else does. People without hope become defeated, broken, and unable to cope with adversity.  Hopeless people give up. If Christians are going to stay energized and motivated to do the work of the Lord day in and day out, putting up with all the trouble that the Devil and people put them through, it is vital to have a hope that is real, alive, and vivid.

The strengthening and energizing value of hope shows up in many ways in everyday life. When a mother tells her hungry family that dinner will be ready in ten minutes, she gets a totally different response than if she says she does not know when it will be ready. The hope of eating soon gives the family the energy to hold on a little longer. Having hope is vital in the medical field. Modern medicine acknowledges the healing value of hope because hopeful people have more strength and endurance. A mother will tell a sick child that the medicine will make him feel better “soon” because that helps the child stay positive and endure the pain.

Having a hope in the form of a visible goal is also important in athletic performance. Every coach knows the value of yelling “Last lap!” to the runner or swimmer whose muscles are already screaming from fatigue. Hearing “One more lap!” causes the athlete to reach deep and find the energy to push through to the end. Runners, skiers, skaters, rowers, and other athletes know that muscles that seem to be just holding on somehow come to life and have extra strength when the finish line comes into sight. The Hope that the race will soon be over infuses the body with energy that seems to come from nowhere. There is no question that having hope anchors a person to his goal and gives him energy and strength to go on.

Just as hope energizes and strengthens, it is also true that being without hope drains one’s strength. The feeling of being “hopeless” is devastating. A person with no hope, with no expectation of good, often sinks into depression and despair and may even commit suicide. The effects of being hopeless are well documented. People who have no hope of everlasting life grieve over death in ways that Christians who are confident of everlasting life do not. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians and told them that the dead Christians would be raised to life when Christ comes “down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet call of God” (1 Thess. 4:16). Paul knew that when they really had hope in the raising of the dead, they would not "grieve" like the rest of men, who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13).

Footnotes: 
1. E. M. Blaiklock and R. K. Harrison, eds., The New International Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology (Regency Reference Library, Grand Rapids, MI, 1983), p. 28.
2. The earliest Christian graves are not in graveyards with a tombstone but are either in caves or catacombs with the actual grave being dug into the rock. Often an anchor would be carved into the rock next to the grave. 
3. Blaiklock and Harrison, op. cit., Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology, p. 141. 

Hope is an Anchor Part 1

A Biblical Look at “Hope”

In order to properly understand the Christian's hope, it is important to examine the exact meaning of the word “hope.” “Hope” means “a desire for, or an expectation of, good, especially when there is some confidence of fulfillment.” It is used that way both in common English and in the Bible. However, the Bible often uses the word “hope” in another way—to refer to the special expectation of good that God has in store for each Christian in the future. Today, the ordinary use of “hope” allows for the possibility that what is hoped for will not come to pass.  However, when the Bible [and Book of Mormon] uses the word “hope” to refer to things that God has promised, the meaning of “hope” shifts from that which has a reasonable chance of coming to pass to that which will absolutely come to pass. To be a useful anchor, hope must hold fast.

A biblical occurrence of “hope” as “an expectation of good” can be found in Acts 27:20. Paul was on a ship bound for Rome. A storm came up and raged for many days, such that “we gave up all hope of being saved.” Another example is in 3 John 14 where the Apostle John wrote to his friend Gaius, and said, “I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.” These are examples of the Bible using the word “hope” in the way it is used in everyday language, such as when someone says, “I hope it rains this week,” or “I hope you feel better.” There are also many biblical examples of the word “hope” referring to everlasting life and the blessings associated with it. Colossians 1:23 mentions “the hope held out in the gospel,” i.e., “the expectation of future good presented in the gospel.”

It is unfortunate that the word “hope” has come to be used in common English as a synonym for “wish.” In the sentence, “I hope it will rain this week,” the word “hope,” if properly used, implies a certainty or confidence that it will, in fact, rain. If there is no such confidence, then it would be more proper to say, “I wish it would rain this week.”

As noted above, when the Bible uses the word “hope” in reference to events in the future, there is no doubt at all that the events will occur. The book of Titus contains a usage of “hope” referring to the believer’s expectation of eternal life:
Titus 1:1 and 2
(1)
 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness—

(2) a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time.
This is a good example of the word “hope” referring to our expectation of everlasting life. In this case, it implies more than just a desire or a wish. It is an expectation of the future that will absolutely come to pass. God, “who does not lie,” made many promises about the future everlasting life of the believer. Although we may not know when He will fulfill those promises, we can be absolutely certain that He will fulfill them.

This quote continued in pt3...
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An example from The Book of Mormon is Ether 12:32.    

"And I also remember that thou hast said that thou hast prepared a house for man, yea, even among the mansions of thy Father, in which man might have a more excellent hope; wherefore man must hope, or he cannot receive an inheritance in the place which thou hast prepared."

"As used here [quoting Ether 12:32] "hope" comes from a promise given by God and describes the state of mind of the recipient during the time interval after the promise but before it's realization.  It is not a vague notion, or whimsical possibility.  it was trust and confidence springing from a promise given to a person by God.  It is something far greater, more profound, more strongly felt, more firmly based than just expectancy from vague desire."

It is "hope" which is powerful, controlling, and causes a thing to come to pass because it is now their right to receive the thing promised.  This [kind of hope] is not simply a virtue. It is powerful, even controlling.  It bends reality as we know it, because it permits a higher power to intervene in the lives of people holding such "hope"."  (Snuffer, Denver (2007) Eighteen Verses (pp. 66-67). Salt lake City: Milcreek Press.)  [] added by blog author.  
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Sea Symbols

Jesus spent much of his ministry near the sea.  His teachings often involved sea symbols. While there are endless symbols in nature I find the ones involving or near the sea appealing.

Anchors achieve holding power either by "hooking" into the seabed, or via sheer mass, or a combination of the two.  I love the anchor as a symbol.  This is covered more in Hope is an Anchor part 2.

When speaking about an anchor, being "hooked" to the seabed has reference to being sealed and bound to God by covenant. Christ descended below all things, making it possible for him to be in and through all things.  He has the knowledge of how to reconcile all to the Father.  Thus, to be anchored to anything or anyone else is foolish.  

One of my favorite hymns also speaks of more sea symbols   Many of these have lead my mind to a place of peace.  The hymn is Brightly Beams our Fathers Mercy.  A lighthouse, a ship, the sea, and rays of hope to all struggling or fainting seamen.  Here's a pretty good audio of the hymn.  

Brightly beams our Father’s mercy
From his lighthouse evermore,
But to us he gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.

Let the lower lights be burning;
Send a gleam across the wave.
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman
You may rescue, you may save.

Dark the night of sin has settled;
Loud the angry billows roar.
Eager eyes are watching, longing,
For the lights along the shore.

Trim your feeble lamp, my brother;
Some poor sailor, tempest-tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor,
In the darkness may be lost.

Scriptural Language

Just as modern language degenerates with time, so does scriptural language.

Holy Ghost has come to mean "warm fuzzies"
Truth has come to mean anything spoken by a General Authority
Abominations, wickedness, iniquity, filthiness, pollutions, apostasy.  These all get applied to people like terrorists, or some extreme religeon, or people in the past.  They have all gotten applied to "everyone else"  and thus have lost their meaning. 
Come unto Christ has come to mean following the Prophet. 
Repentance has come to mean some formula involving "R's" or to refer mostly to stopping some addiction.  
Following the Spirit has come to mean relying on the handbook of instructions, or following a printed program. 
Intelligence has come to mean a P.h.D. or scholarly learning. 
Endure to the End has come to mean staying mainstream Mormon at all costs.
Learning mysteries of God has come to be something inappropriate, wrong, against the leaders, or apostate.  Or something we should leave alone.
  
Scriptural language as seen above can quickly loose it's underlying meaning. Unless preserved, the words and meaning deteriorate with much more consequential effects than our everyday language. (see Omni 1:17, 1 Nephi 3:19, Mosiah 1:3 (2–6). Without the Spirit to assist us, and give us the true meaning of the passages our understanding will decay. This does not require any academic degrees or training. It requires only a humble heart, and open mind, and for us to listen to the Spirit of God when reading.

If all we look for are "good feelings" we are going to miss most messages of scripture. "Good feelings" are very separate from the Holy Ghost. God often delivers messages that cause a wide spectrum of feelings and of course some of them are pleasant. But we shouldn't dismiss a message coming to us simply because it doesn't prompt "good feelings". This is one way to miss scripture's meaning entirely.

Discovering the underlying meaning of scriptural language is not a scholarly endeavor or an emotional one.

The scripture authors wrote "as they were moved upon by the Spirit". We need to be in tune with that Spirit in order to hear the true message being conveyed.

When scriptural language looses light there is a loss of associated word meanings, until the words of scripture may become empty, or lifeless. It's possible to have a large religious or scriptural vocabulary, but not have any inner light or correct meaning associated with the words. One could then have a discussion using all the right words, but not be speaking about the correct ideas. Further, satisfaction from being able to use and throw around the right vocabulary words is not the same as possessing the inner light or understanding the words point to.

For this blog the word "Christian" is not referring to modern Christianity or historical Christianity. And "hope" also is used in a much different way than the cultural definition of a vague wish.

The Holy Ghost is used on the blog in the way Joseph taught. Something that communicates light or intelligence. The feelings prompted may cover a wide spectrum but they are independent of the message the Holy Ghost communicated.

Word Meanings Degenerate Over Time

It is due to the fallen nature of man that the meanings of words degenerate over time.

E. W. Bullinger was a biblical scholar and fluent in Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin, and other languages. His study of language led him to this interesting conclusion: “It is a strange commentary on fallen human nature to see words thus changing their usage; for this change is uniformly in one direction; it is always a change for the worse. We never find a word acquiring a higher meaning! It is always down, down, down, like fallen and falling man himself, who thus drags down with him the meanings of the words he uses.

How, for example, did the change in the usage of this word “prevent” come about? [Bullinger had been writing of the word “prevent” and how in earlier English usage it used to mean “precede, go in front of, go before”]. It was because whenever one man got before another, it was generally for his own advantage, and to the hindrance, hurt, and loss of the other; hence the word came to have this new and lower meaning.

The same may be seen in apology, which was used of a defense, as in Jewel’s Apology (i.e., Defense) of theReformation. But, because man’s defenses of himself are usually so poor, the word has come to mean a mere excuse. Our word censure was used simply of judgment, which might be favorable or otherwise; but, inasmuch as such judgments have generally proved to be unfavorable, the word is used today only of blame. Our word story was originally short for history, but because so many histories and stories are what they are [i.e., made up or embellished], the word has come to mean that which is not true. Cunning meant merely knowing; but because knowing people generally know too much, or use their knowledge to a bad purpose, it has come to have its present usage. Villain meant a servant of a villa, or of a country or farm-house. The house has kept its good meaning, but the man has lost it.” E. W. Bullinger, How to Enjoy the Bible (Samuel Bagster and Sons, Ltd., London, reprinted 1970), p. 230.

The meaning of hope has degenerated also. From meaning something that was likely to occur, the modern English usage of “hope” actually implies that what is hoped for is very likely not to occur. For instance, one might say “I hope to go to the store today” when there is doubt that he actually may do so.

http://www.truthortradition.com/endnotes/ourvaluableanchor.html

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Decline in Latter Day Hope?

The following is an excerpt from a new book by Gearld Lund about Hope.  He spent his career in CES and has since been called as a General Authority.  I don't quote this because of his title, or calling.  I quote it because I think he has years and years of real experience among the saints, and not just results of opinion polls.  I believe his observations offer an interesting and accurate view of some trends and feelings among the body of saints.  Some of the comments he quotes towards the end strike me as fulfillment of scriptural prophesies about the difficulties occurring in the latter days. The quote begins here in chapter 1.

"Most members of the Church today are not faced with the same kinds of challenges, trials, and sacrifices that the pioneers experienced.  We are not facing ice-clogged rivers or blizzards raging around our tents.  We are not asked to subsist on four ounces of flour per day, to press on pulling our handcart without a husband, or to leave a child buried in a shallow grave along the trail.

But we are facing some pretty serious challenges of our own.  Today, many families are caught in difficult financial circumstances.  They are unemployed.  They’ve seen serious reductions in their retirement funds and life savings.  They are losing their homes through foreclosure.  A growing number of natural disasters destroy homes, property, and livelihoods and leave love ones dead or seriously injured. Pornography, selfishness, and infidelity destroy numerous marriages and families.  People addicted to alcohol or drugs bring years of sorrow and heartbreak to their family members.  And knowing that things in the world are going to get worse before they get better only adds to our sense of hopelessness.

Some people are dealing with these trials well but many others -even including those in the church- are losing their hope.  Frustrated that God is not hearing and answering their desperate cries for help they bitterly turn away from him and reject the Church with all of its requirements and demands.  Here are some comments and questions I have overheard over the past few years:

 -  A returned missionary in his late twenties:  “The Brethren keep encouraging us older men to marry, but why should I date and get serious with a girl?  All around me, including my own family, I see failing marriages.  The future is so uncertain.  What if I can’t love and care for a family and make them happy?”


A seminary student after a fireside talk on the Second Coming: “I hope I die.  I don’t want to be on the earth if things are going to be so horrible."


 -A recent college graduate: "Why even try to plan for the future, let alone retirement?  The world is facing economic collapse and it will all be for nothing.”


 -A man in his mid-forties, a fifth generation Latter-day Saint: “I’ve tried to be faithful my whole life.  I served a mission.  Married in the temple.  Now, my life is a wreck.  I’ve prayed. I’ve fasted.  I’ve begged the Lord to help me.  And nothing has changed.  So I’m done with it.”


 -A woman to the teacher just before a gospel instruction class was to begin: “Just thought I’d warn you.  If you tell me one more thing I’m supposed to be doing to be a better person, I’m going to stand up in the middle of your lecture and scream.”


 -A young single adult to her institute instructor after class: “Thank you so much for that less, Brother Jones.  It was so inspiring, and I’m so depressed.”


 -A father who lost his home, his wife, and several children in a devastating earthquake: “Why, God? Why?”


 -A single woman in her thirties: “I have decided that God isn't going to answer my prayers.  I have to face the fact that I am going to be alone the rest of my life.  And that reality is so depressing and so discouraging that I often cry myself to sleep at night.”


 -A stake president:  “In addition to the usual concerns about transgression and apathy, I worry about some of our stalwarts.  They know the gospel is true.  They serve faithfully.  But the joy is gone.”


 -An elderly couple:  “We had always heard people joke about old age not being for sissies, but we never understood it until now.  Life grows increasingly difficult as our pains increase and our capacities diminish."


 -The parents of a wayward child: “He’s lied to us, stolen our credit cards, forged checks, cost us tens of thousands of dollars.  We've spend thousands more in his legal defense, been to jails to bail him out, nursed him through several attempted suicides.  He’s been breaking our hearts for nearly twenty years now.  But the hardest thing of all is that we can see no end to it, no solutions, no way out.”


 -A highly successful entrepreneur in fast and testimony meeting, with tears: “We are moving out of the ward this week.  Our house is in foreclosure.  I’m looking for a job.  The hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life is try to explain to my sixteen-year-old son why we are moving in with Grandma.”

More and more people describe themselves as loosing the joy, being dissatisfied, frustrated, discouraged, desperate, stressed out, dejected, melancholy, gloomy, weary, helpless, and hopeless.  They feel disconnected, doubtful, disengaged, disheartened, disillusioned, distressed, and despairing..."

(Lund, Gearld (2012) Look up my Soul, The Divine Promise of Hope cht 1. Deseret Book)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Thoughts from Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith taught Latter-day Saints that their religion gives them the right and privilege to accept all truth, and to reject false teachings and traditions. “Mormonism is truth; and every man who embraces it feels himself at liberty to embrace every truth: consequently the shackles of superstition, bigotry, ignorance, and priestcraft, fall at once from his neck; and his eyes are opened to see the truth, and truth greatly prevails…”. (Chapter 22 of “Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith”)

 “ A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power than many men who are on the earth. Hence it needs revelation to assist us, and give us knowledge of the things of God.”  (History of the Church, 4:588; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Apr. 10, 1842, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Wilford Woodruff.)

Mormonism,” so-called, embraces every principle pertaining to life and salvation, for time and eternity. No matter who has it. If the infidel has got truth it belongs to “Mormonism.” The truth and sound doctrine possessed by the sectarian world, and they have a great deal, all belong to this Church. As for their morality, many of them are, morally, just as good as we are. All that is good, lovely, and praiseworthy belongs to this Church and Kingdom. “Mormonism” includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the Gospel. It is life, eternal life; it is bliss; it is the fullness of all things in the gods and in the eternities." (DBY, 3).

"God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what he will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them"... (Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 150-151)