Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Faith Cometh By Hearing

Romans 10: 16-17:   But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Who hath believed our report? Who was reporting? And who was this unbelieving audience?  What did the report include?  Why was the audience not accepting of the report?  Did it not look right? Did the messenger come as The Lord did, which was humbly, without credential, leadership position, and without an impressive bibliography? As I read the scriptures I see that unbelief in the face of authentic testimony is typical.  The authentic reports are not believed.  Yet the misleading reports are applauded.

"17: So then faith cometh by hearing,"  

Hearing what? Sentimental feelings or stories? Fables? Carefully crafted phrases? Truth mixed with error? Does faith come from hearing those things?  Or does it come from hearing something totally different?

Joseph taught "faith cometh by hearing the word of God through the testimony of the servants of God. That testimony is always attended by the Spirit of prophecy and and revelation".  (Words of Joseph Smith)

One purpose of hearing true testimony is so faith can come to you. I've experienced this. It's real, and you can feel it emanating from Spirit given words. You can hear the Masters voice when someone gives a report that originates from Him. It sparks faith.  An authorized representative speaking the words of God and not altering the message will trigger faith. 

Not all testimony or sermons or articles or talks do this however.  Some testimony is to just fill a square because that is what you do at the end of a talk or lesson.  Some testimony is to satisfy a social pressure, impress an audience, or is simply a memorized habit of speech. Sometimes strong soothing emotion, or a long distinguished bibliography is substituted for The Spirit.  Would faith come from hearing that?  Is that the report Isaiah speaks of? 

Can true faith come from hearing a soothing but false message?  Can faith come from hearing a messenger who The Lord has not sent? Who speaks his own message?  Or own opinions? Prophetic messages are known to irritate people and trigger various non "warm fuzzy" feelings. And as the scripture above says, "who hath believed our report"? Which says to us that we need to be careful to not turn away in disbelief when we hear something that is maybe new, foreign, different from our religious traditions.  Just because it's not flattering doesn't mean it's not true. Isaiah's remarks suggest not many people believe the report.  Why?  Why is it difficult to believe? Perhaps people think the message is coming from someone we perceive is not the kind of person  who The Lord should be sending to deliver a message.  Unlikely messengers are easy to disbelieve and dismiss. 

A true report can instill confidence.  Even if it's the basic testimony of a new convert. You can still notice faith stirring inside you from hearing it.  There is also a testimony of Gospel Fullness. "The Testimony of Jesus".  This is what we are all invited to have.  Scripture authors possess this and invite us to as well.  Yet we oddly don't hear this kind of report very often now days.  But I think deep down we all want to.  We desire on some level to hear true authentic reports of those who testify they have seen, heard, and experienced the Lord's ministry in a literal, personal way.  Those who report and bear testimony that the Lord still visits his followers today just as he did anciently, as promised in the scriptures.  Plain, simple words.

This is what scripture authors testify of. It doesn't come across as vague, it doesn't stop short by pointing to men, or preach just one disjointed principle.  It does hide it as "too sacred to share".  It doesn't cause you to be dependent on an organization, or men.  Instead this kind of true testimony or report points you towards being connected personally to heaven, and coming to the Lord yourself. It's plan, simple, direct, and clear.  It points to actually experiencing Gospel fullness. At some level we as church members are hungry to hear this. It's fulfilling. Faith can come and stir within you from such truths.  It motivates you to act on your belief, develop faith, and offer such sacrifices as please God and to obtain heaven's approval for yourself.

Yet what seems to occur over time in place of authentic reports are memorized phrases or mindless cliche's and endless "touching" stories.  Sometimes certain "testimony phrases" have been repeated so often by so many in authority that none of us are very clear what the words even mean anymore.  They are vague, they rely on cultural assumptions, and sometimes stop short of pointing the hearer to God.  The sea of repeated words and testimony habits can sometimes drown out those who's words carry a different meaning entirely.  The humble authentic report of someone with no status is often demoted in favor of carefully worded phrases from those with status, speaking from large pulpits.  This isn't always the case but it's worth noticing.  Sincere testimony involving the fullness of the Gospel is always found in the scriptures. What a loss it would be if scriptures were taught to be less important than modern voices who's words and testimony are often not as complete, as clear, or as full as the testimonies found in scripture.

Sometimes we doubt God will do for us what he did or is doing for others. That's another aspect to this.  We usually believe God spoke to Moses, Paul, Nephi, or Joseph Smith, and perhaps modern leaders.  The issue is we often doubt He will do the same for us.  We sometimes believe that scriptural promises are not meant to be taken personally, but instead are only for a small group of church leaders, or those in the past.  True reports from heaven do not support those conclusions.  Hearing faith via a true report can help us overcome those things by instilling confidence that we too can obey and qualify just as those in scriptures did.  The Lord is no respecter of persons.  This is evident in the story of Lamoni's father in Alma 22.   Faith came by hearing the word of God (as preached by Aaron) and it bore fruit for the hearer, and both rejoiced.

If our culture, or a body of people denied or used pressure to curtail the sharing of authentic reports or testimony it would be a great loss.  If there are none bearing "The testimony of Jesus" than what does that say about us as a people?  If there were those who were jealous, or sought for power, a sort of testimony prevention or "silencing" could occur.  What would result would be a heard mentality who relied on a leader as their intermediary.  This in contrast to how Hebrews 8 says it which is: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest."

Testimony can instill confidence about who God is, and that you too can receive and connect back to God's presence. To a sincere searcher, this is like music, the effect is real and deep.  It goes deep to your core.  You can feel confidence grow and stir inside you and spark an increased desire to exercise faith in our Lord.  But if what we ingest as "testimony" time after time does not accomplish that, it may in fact be that either we are not hearing correctly (something I'm prone to), or we may just be hearing uninspired vain words of men.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Prophet Ether and Our Day.

I have a deep interest in the Book of Ether.  I've looked around and have not found very much written about the book and the doctrine found there.  There are a few commentaries here and there, but not much.

The history of this prophet is an interesting one.  He wrote on plates of gold.  His father was not a prophet, his grandfather was not, his great grandfather was not.  This guy didn't have an impressive pedigree.  Lots of the male line before him are called wicked by Moroni who's abridges his record.  It it just says: "And Ether was a Prophet of the Lord".

His ministry wouldn't fall under our typical definition of "successful" while he lived.  The account says the people "rejected all the words of Ether".  All his words, not just some of them.  And "They esteemed him as naught, and cast him out".    

That reminds of of what Nephi prophesies that churches of our day will do.  It says people will "turn aside the just as a thing of naught" (2 Nephi 17:32) (2 Nephi 28:16).  So the same pattern we see with Ether is what Nephi says will happen in our day.  People will mistreat and esteem as worthless people and messages which actually should have been treated very differently.

How is it that people make these kinds of mistakes? And why is it so common? Are people sent from God or "the just" that difficult to recognize? They must be because esteeming them "as naught" happens all the time in the scriptures, and the Book of Mormon says we will do it too. So what is it about Ether (or in Nephi's prophesy "the "just") that makes them so easy to dismiss? Is it their lack of political influence? Their lack of credentials? Lack of titles? Lack of calling? Interesting questions.

It's not common for LDS church members to turn away the Quorum of the 12, or First Presidency as a thing of naught. Quite the opposite. So for us who read the Book of Mormon and believe in it, chances are those being turned aside as a thing of naught are not those in the Church hierarchy. It must be speaking of others that are getting written off. People who perhaps are devalued due to lack of calling, young age, or lack of some other perceived outward emblem of authority. Christ was treated this way. His lack of credentials or lack of membership in the religious hierarchy of the day was reason for some to ignore or reject Him.  The patterns are usually the same.  Which is why we are continually invited to learn from history.

The Book of Mormon does not say who ordained Ether, and doesn't say where he got his authority.  In our day without those things, is it possible we too may have reacted in a similar way to someone like him? The record states the same year the people cast Ether out, a great war began (Ether 13:15). I think casting our a prophet and destruction or war are equated enough time in scripture that we should take notice.       

Moroni twice calls Ether's prophesying "great and marvelous".  He didn't need to confine what he said into an approved topic list based on what a correlation department deemed appropriate.  He was free to speak and prophesy.  There was no question that what he said was prophesy, it was obvious and frequent   He was a prophet based on word and deed, not exclusively based on official calling or title.  His prophesies were not hidden, or made politically correct by an organization.  It's said of him "he could not be restrained because of the Spirit within him".

What a contrast to our day. Our leaders teach us how much we need to strive to even have the Spirit just come be with us. But here's this guy Ether who can't be restrained because of the Spirit within him. The contrast helps us see the spectrum. What's "common" doesn't necessarily mean that is all the Lord is willing to give or desirous for us to have.

But back to Ether.  When the big battles happened it says everyone fought but him. (Ether 15:12).  He lived to see his prophesies fulfilled about the peoples destruction, but it all left him alone.  His final words are a lot like Abinadi's final words.  They both say that what happens to them didn't matter "If it so be that I am saved in the Kingdom of God".

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Power of the Small and Simple

Alma 37:6

"Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise."
There are a couple really interesting differences between a beginner and a master, in any given subject.  Beginners need to focus on basics, and fundamentals, but the master will appreciate the small, simple subtleties of his art.  He knows their power.  Whereas the beginner will often be a bit caught up in how "cool" or "popular" or "powerful" or "rich" a particular skill, art, ability, or possession will make him/her.  Beginners tend to try and force things, whereas the master will use power and wisdom. To the beginner, the beauty of it all looks somewhat like "magic" and is a bit of a mystery.

The master will have mastered the basics, and therefore, knows the advantage of small adjustments.  He knows when to use them for maximum effect.  He develops wisdom.  The beginner typically just wants to know the secrets, shortcuts, or techniques. Who, if told, either can't reproduce it, or will misuse them, and get himself and others in trouble.  A master is not just proficient at his art, it goes beyond that.  Many learners in any subject will stop at "proficiency" level.  In fact most will.  But there are a few who will press on, and learn the keys to whatever it is they are doing.

In a cultural sense, what develops from this are initiation rituals, or "puberty rites". Our culture has all but lost them, however remnants of them are scattered through every culture that has ever lived on earth.  In ancient cultures when a male reached a certain age, had been proven and tested, he was taught  the "keys" or "secrets of the universe" by a group of aged "Elders" in the community.  The person acquired a new title through the ritual and was reintroduced into the community.  Separate rituals existed for the females.  These are interesting to read if you want to look them up.  But that is a topic for another post.

The master and the beginner do have some things in common.  They both share a "beginners" mind.  They are childlike, humble, and desire to learn more.  The master has gone through all the stages of learning until the foundations have become part of his subconscious.  But he returns again to the basics, this time at a whole new level, and with a whole new mindset, as if seeing them for the first time.

Here's just a few examples of small and simple things that everyone can recognize.

Martial Arts:

The beginner martial artist will tend to rely on physical force to try and overpower their opponent.  The master uses the other persons energy and simply redirect it.  The beginner wonders how long he will have to lift weights in order to throw his opponent over his shoulder.  The master knows how the bodies joints work, and what can be used as leverage points. He positions himself in just the right place, and with perhaps one movement someone 3 times his size can go right over his shoulder to the floor.  We've probably all seen it happen.

A Ship

A small trim tab can turn an entire ship. Or you could have the workers put the oars out the side of the boat and try and turn it by rowing.  It will work, but the captain only needs to adjust the control surfaces.  But a wise captain knows when to use each.  A battling crew who are at each others throats may benefit from working together with the oars.  An exhausted crew may benefit from rest while the rudder helps steer for a while.  Again the subtleties.  The small and the simple can accomplish great things.  The master uses them with wisdom, like the captain who knows his crew.


This is a field which I love.  There is way more to say than I will write, but a few basics for thought is a good start.  In communication, there are times when "less is more".  Of course this isn't always the case.  But it's worth noticing.  One well timed and well worded sentience, with the correct voice tone, can speak more than something of much greater length.  It's small and simple, yet very powerful.  Indirect messages, or elements of body language are much the same.  They often go totally unnoticed, yet can have a greater effect than anyone would imagine.  Picture a Hollywood chick flick   A simple well placed moment of eye contact can trigger feelings in someone else no amount of words or convincing could.  These things are not hidden, we all know it when we see it.  But yet we often don't "see" it.  The body is an amazing tool for communication, but we don't pay much attention to it.  

In almost any area, the subtitles are often the most powerful.  But curiously they are guarded in a way. Only some will appreciate them.  For the rest, they go undiscovered.  For those who know them there is a sense of obligation not to share them with the unprepared who will misuse them, and thus cause harm.  So a sort of built in "safety mechanism" exists.  It's that the unprepared will not value, nor truly recognize the subtleties, so they usually forget them, and or pass them off as inconsequential.  "Slothful" is the term Alma uses.

Things like a ship trip tab, or various types of communication are just broad examples of small and simple things that most people will relate to at some level.  We've all seen a ship rudder, seen a martial arts guy get thrown, and watched as Hollywood portrays the boy girl drama with all the associated subtle forms of communication.  The discussion gets really interesting however when it turns to matters of Faith, the Gospel, and God.  The Lord is a Master Teacher.  When I've been able to learn something, I've been truly in awe that a being with that much light, and that much wisdom, and that much love would even communicate with me.  But He does.  And it's unlike anything else.  We all need to be in contact with God and His Spirit.

Back tot he scripture this post began with : "Great things" in the verse no doubt refers to eternal things, like people's salvation.  For Alma to say "by small and simple things are great things brought to pass"...those are the words of someone who knows, someone who has joined in the cause of peoples eternal life and immortality.  These are the words of someone with a profound yet simple message.  I think it's informing us about one of the ways the Lord works.  Small, simple.  These verses are not the product of Joseph Smith's fabrications.  This is real.

So how do small means in many instances confound the wise?  Because the wise are blind to it.  They think they already know. They are confounded when something so simple evaded them, and when something small presents higher intelligence than they had.  They think things like "what your eyes do" when a boy first meet a girl are small and stupid. Or maybe they think things like bathing 7 times in the river Jordan are foolish.  "Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage." (2 Kings 5:12)  And too often we too find things foolish which are not.  It's our own pride that blinds us to what is often staring us in the face.  But we think we are wise, and so we remain blind.  The irony is awesome.

One note here: The adversary also knows that being subtle is a an effective method to deceive.  So awareness of these things can be very helpful on multiple fronts.  That is a major idea to consider.  The Lord worketh not in darkness, so His ways can always be discerned by their light, and by the Spirit.

Small and simple by their nature are "easy" (in one sense of the word), and so they go unnoticed.  You've perhaps already stopped thinking about what subtleties I'm referring to.  Don't miss them.  Remember not to pass them off because they look small.  You have to pay attention, because they will not command much notice. Yet such things are used frequently by the Lord.  It's easy to be slothful because of the easiness of the "the small and simple".   

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Repentance - the other side of the word

Repentance isn't just stopping something, stopping needs to balance with starting.  The other side of it all is to "start", or "add to ourselves" the things God asks, by His Spirit, and with His help.  Getting answers to prayer, getting revelation, getting to know the mysteries of God.  That's part of repentance too.   The additive and positive side of the word repentance sometimes gets less focus but it shouldn't.  

To quote my bishop from a few weeks ago:  "You don't need to wait for a calling in the ward before you can do good, and offer service to ward members".

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A closer look at scriptural words

Repentance is a top Gospel priority (D&C 133:16).  So then it would make sense understanding what it is and what exactly it is we are supposed to repent of.

Some not so nice scriptural words get glossed over so much and other times have a dark blinding veil that covers their meanings. We teach each other that the words don't apply to us.  So rather than head down that treacherous line of thought I thought I'd attempt to look at some of these words as perhaps they may be helpful. And for us to see perhaps how they apply to us.  We sometimes DO in fact have things in common with the "bad" guys in scripture. (link) Scripture authors (Book of Mormon) had to etch words onto metal plates. So I want to additionally show respect to carefully chosen words that required a chisel to write.

Here's just one sample list of scriptural warning words in no particular order.  While I did research and include things from multiple sources, and various dictionaries, I also will say there was inspiration from the Spirit.  You are welcomed and encouraged to verify all of this for yourself.  And yes I should have included a footnote citing each dictionary and source.  I will at some point go back and do that.

So much could be said about each word, but I only want to provide enough to spark thought.  I hope it's a bit of a resource.  If you have a definition or clarification that adds light, understanding, or applicability, leave a comment.  Some specifically chosen scriptural links were added to each one that shows the word in context.


Filthiness -  Not personal hygiene.  It's religious practices that fail to clean.  When a rite or ordinance is changed or altered it doesn't clean and so the result is filthiness.  It would be a "form" of godliness without the "power".  When false teachings and false doctrine are accepted they will not lead to Christ, and therefore the person will remain in a state of unclean filthiness before God.  (1 Nephi 15:34) (Mormon 9:14)

Pollutions -  Not the smog that currently covers Salt Lake City.  But more spiritual degeneracy.  It's teachings, actions, doctrine and beliefs that are no longer pure, but instead have become contaminated.  Just because we inhale things and ideas that are common in our religious culture, in business, or shown on the news does not mean it's not polluted.  A "church" becomes polluted not by environmental waste, but by spiritual contamination. We Mormons are the subject of these pollutions according to Mormon.  (Mormon 8:31) (Mormon 8:38) (2 Peter 2:20)

Whoredoms  -  Whoredoms implies both sexual imagery along with a very interesting analogy to an intimacy with "false lovers" or "false Gods".  The root word is whore.  The great illusion of a whore is to imagine she likes you. To imagine she cares for you. To imagine she (or the relationship) desires what you desire and is cooperating with you because she finds you attractive, appealing, and that you fulfill her longing. It is a lie, an illusion, and a fraud.  Folks would not be a customer of such services if not for the lies. The seductive character "Babylon" is prophesied to be great whore in our day.  People sell themselves to it,  purchase her goods, and are under the illusion she loves them and that she plans on satisfying them.  But it will not.  Fidelity to Christ, not men, no matter their calling is where the longing of the soul will find true lasting fulfillment.  (Mormon 8:31)

Pride-   The natural man "me" and the "I" that fails to accept and perceive the reality of our utter dependence and reliance on God.  A fallen nature cannot evict it's own pride, it cannot even "see" the need, so we must yield to the Holy Spirit and follow Christ through the things he sees fit to inflict upon us.  Otherwise we remain in our competitive, stubborn, blind, stiff necked, and puffed up state.  Alma asks us all a brutal question:  Are ye stripped of pride?  Believing we can save ourselves comes from pride. (Mormon 8:36)  (2 Nephi 28:12)

Abominations-   These involve actual religious justification of wrongdoing.  Something becomes "abominable" when it is motivated out of a false form of religious observance, or is justified because of religious error.  But of course it's not viewed as "wrong" until it's exposed.  These are altered ordinances, wicked practices which pervert, and blind the people.  Often the people participating do not think their religious actions have become corrupt. Quite the contrary, they think themselves justified by them, and see themselves as devoted.  It all serves to increases their pride.  Scriptures teach that abominations bring destruction upon a people.  Things "most abominable" either affect children, or involve secret combinations. (Mormon 8:31)   

Apostasy - Not helpful if we think apostasy is "what other churches are in".  Even (especially?) God's chosen people are prone to fall away, depart from the truth, let it erode, neglect it, abandon it, reject it, or be part of some a unrecognized "revolt" against the truth.  Prophets in scriptures have fallen.  We apostatize from the truth when we refuse to believe people who lead us are incapable of being astray. The Book of Mormon prophesies we will depart from the ways of the Lord, and we're the Church that believes in that book.  Part of the difficulty with understanding the word apostasy is that the people are almost always distracted from the fact it may currently be under way.  They think it's not possible, and they can cite a number of foolish reasons why. (1 Nephi 1:19)    

Wickedness-  One of Satan's titles is "the wicked one" (D&C 93:39).  Wickedness therefore an alignment of some kind with the father of lies.  It's a parallel behavior or action with something Godlike but which has become ineffective and therefore unable to elevate the soul.  According to our culture wicked refers only to things like Ted Bundy.... Satan worshipers....or various villains.  However in Hebrew wicked means "to destroy," to break something into pieces and destroy it.  Satan also carries the title "the destroyer".  When God gives us something, like a true prophet, true doctrine, or scripture and we neglect it, correlate it, reject it, circumvent it, pervert it, destroy it, or eliminate it, we play the part of destroying what it was intended to do.  It's wicked.  Isaiah  says wickedness is like a troubled sea, who's waters cast up mire and dirt. (D&C 133:14) (1 John 5:19) (2 Nehpi 12:5

Iniquity -  The wrong course.  In hebrew the root is twisted, or crooked. Christ quoting a final judgement day scene responds to a few statements with this phrase: "Depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (3 Nephi 14:22-23) Unrighteous rulers/leaders/presidents can cause a lot of it.  Isaiah 53:5 Adds an interesting thought: “He was bruised for our iniquities.” Iniquities are not superficial. They are under the skin; they are deeply embedded.  Iniquity can sometimes gets a "politically correct" name by society which blinds.  When people become increasingly determined or committed to the wrong course, the prophets call this sort of thing "waxing strong" or "ripening in iniquity".  (Mosiah 29:17)  (Ether 2:9)

Arm of the Flesh - Not your upper bodies extremity. It's "trusting in man" (relying on "man" to save instead of God). It's trusting in man's credentials, degrees, theories, formulas, tools, methods and philosophies that are substituted for, and then relied upon, instead of the Spirit. It would be relying on and trusting in man made things as if they were the Spirit. Such things as public opinion, or academic inquiry, or social science, opinion polls, mood lightening, musical manipulation and any such thing dependent on man's unstable wisdom instead of the simple, meekness of the Spirit. The alternative to the arm of the flesh is to trust in and learn things of Salvation from the Spirit and revelation. (2 Nephi 28:31)  (2 Nephi 4:34)  

Corruption - Infected with error.  Something corrupt has been made useless due to alterations or or errors. Truth being mingled with philosophies of man denotes corruption. (D&C 33:4) (2 Nephi 28:12)         

False doctrine -  When everyone believes it, or "disbelieves it" that means it must be true, right?  False doctrine is anything that prevents or misleads a person from coming to Christ.  It's all around us by the way.... we are up to our ears in it but for the most part are oblivious.  (2 Nephi 28:12) (Mormon 8:33)

Murder -  not restricted to physically ending someones life, but also leading them towards the destruction of their soul through lies, deceptions...etc.  (Alma 36:14)

Robbing -  Not breaking into someones car and stealing their laptop, although yes that is stealing.  In the scriptures the idea here is that it's the poor and God that so often get robbed.  It's to deprive one of what they should receive.  Robbery occurs when the poor are passed over in favor of puffing up and lavishing the rich.  It's when "fine sanctuaries" deprive those in need.  It's when value is taken from people who have inherent worth and instead extended to "things" which will all pass away.  (2 Nephi 28:13).          

Unbelief  -  Doesn't only mean you don't have any beliefs inside you, it means the form of your belief is not correct, and produces no fruit.  Your belief produces no signs (signs follow them that believe D&C 63:9).  So unbelief denotes you have the wrong understanding, or such false perceptions that it causes you to continually miss the mark. (D&C 84:55)

Vanity -  is not a slave to fashion, or the sink/mirror combination in your bathroom.  It means ineffective or lacking power. (i.e. your faith is vain)…  Vanity is also "That which is empty".  It's making your self look good in the eyes of others.  Drawing attention to self in favor of pointing to God.  The self centered, self flattering, or self vaunting mindset that leads to ignoring or denying God's presence, and influence.  Vanity is focus on the wrong thing, and ascribing value where there is none.  (D&C 84:55)

Idolatry -  Not just bowing to a gold calf, but mistaking the "thing", or "symbol" for the underlying truth or meaning.  Idolatry includes beliefs and thus actions that idolize or pay undue adoration to someone, or some thing which distracts you from God.  People can make a church, a person, a thing, or an obsession into an idol.  Tradition can be an idol.  It's possible to hearken to the President of the Church's inspired counsel.  It is also possible to make him, or the Church into an idol, and participate in a form of idol worship.  Idolatry seems to be one of the most common errors scriptures say people fall into.  (Alma 31:1) (Amla 50:21)


Monday, October 15, 2012

Revelation to the Press

During the Church press conference held last week Elder Holland said that: "revelatory power" had occurred with regard to the announcement for missionary age change.  Also, prior to general conference, Elder Nelson is quoted by a public affairs missionary blog in Europe (link) as saying: "revelation is alive and well in the church, and that we should listen closely in our upcoming general conference as last Thursday President Monson received revelation that will "shape the future of the Church".

This we now know was referring to the missionary age change.  But if you weren't at that small meeting in Europe, and didn't watch the press conference, you wouldn't have known about a revelation.  The talks in conference did not mention any.  Without the press conference and that blog, the change/announcement was a procedural change as a result of investigation, and initial trial runs in other countries.  These trial runs were positive and those involved motivated the most recent announcement: "Their faithfulness, obedience, and maturity have caused us to desire the same option of earlier missionary service for all young men, regardless of the country from which they come."  It was prayed and pondered about. Then the age for young women was considered and a decision was reached. Those were the words used.  See the address here

I'm happy to hear of revelation occurring in the Church.  After all we are the ones that claim modern day revelation from God.  But yet when it happened, curiously no one said so.  Not one authority in the actual conference broadcast mentioned the word revelation with regard to the announcement.  I had to watch the press conference to hear it.  The media, and not the church members tuning into conference, were the ones to hear that Church leaders had experienced revelatory power.  I found that interesting.

By one viewpoint revelation from God would be the first and primary thing leaders would want to tell the members.  Thus helping the body know they are lead by God, and revelation, and not just by men of the Church.  Churchmen.  

If the media and the public were the only ones to hear about "revelation," that to me says something.  Something that brings the word "marketing" to mind.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Words Spoken from Edge of Space

These are some of the words spoken by Felix Baumgartner, who just completed a world record breaking skydive jump (Link1,) (Link2).  Total descent was 24 miles.  

"Sometimes we have to get really high to see how small we are," he said.

"When I was standing there on top of the world, you become so humble, you do not think about of breaking records anymore, you do not think of about gaining scientific date. The only thing you want is to come back alive," he said after the jump.

Although quite a different setting, his words made my mind remember back to something Moses humbly said after he "beheld the word upon which he was created; and Moses beheld the world and the ends thereof, and all the children of men which are, and which were created; of the same he greatly marveled and wondered."

"... Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed."
 -  Moses 1:8,10

What is a Church?

Nephi in Chapter 14 vs 10 quotes an angel as saying "Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth."

If we view Nephi's use of the word "church" in terms of: Catholic, Protestant, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Latter Day Saint or any "other" religion, or denomination, we may miss the extent of the teaching.  We would be speaking in terms of earthly legal institutions, instead of the qualities and classifications that make something of the Devil vs of the Lord.  Anyone belonging to any earthly church could subtly and carefully be a part of "the church of the devil".  He's a master of deception after all.  So when we say the great and abominable church is "them" (and therefore not us) that almost blinds us from the benefit the verse can offer us.

Jacob Nephi's brother says this : 2 Nephi 10:16 "Wherefore, he that fighteth against Zion, both Jew and Gentile, both bond and free, both male and female, shall perish; for they are they who are the whore of all the earth; for they who are not for me are against me, saith our God."

That abominable, and all-inclusive great church could be comprised of all philosophies, belief systems, unbelief systems, rationalizations, theories and vanities that distract people from repenting and following Christ. This all-inclusive church is a "whore" because she is open to all.  It's welcoming.  Your denomination doesn't matter.  The only requirement being that you have false beliefs.   The words are pretty brutal, if your not part of the Church of the Lamb, your a part of that other church  This is big stuff that makes me look very closely at myself.  Again if we speak in terms of earthly classified denominations we may not be using the same criteria as the scriptures to identify a "Church".  But if we classify "church" more broadly, we may see that we too have some repenting to do regardless of where or in who's database we have membership records.    

Having your name on membership records of an earthly institution we call a church may not mean much if internally we have adopted a false belief system, or follow false teachings and thus become part of a false church.  You could be a member of any church, but not follow the Son of God and therefore in reality believe things that go against God.  I think this is why the scriptures warn everyone to repent.  The safety is in coming to Christ, and as Lectures on Faith states: "having a knowledge that your life path is acceptable to God".  Not just thinking you are part of some organization which is "safe".

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Competition vs Unity

Last night my wife and I were flipping through the TV channels.  I do not like TV.  I can rarely sit there for even one program without feeling almost nauseous. The commercials really tire me out.  They are around 42% of the total air time.  The decibel level for the commercials is sometimes 50% louder than the programming.  I looked up these stats, they are readily available from the Federal Communications Commission.

While flipping through the channels here are some of the shows available to watch.  Survivor, America's Got Talent, American Idol, Dance Moms, Project Runway, America's Next Top Model, Top Chef, X factor, Abby Lee's Dance Competition, Toddlers and Tiaras, The Voice, So you think you can Dance, Celebrity Apprentice, The Amazing Race.... the list goes on and on and on and on and on.   

What do all of these have in common?  They are all based on competition.  All of them. And there is no shame in extremely young age group participation.  Some of them can hardly walk and they are fully inundated in the mindset of competition.  There is clearly a trend on TV, there's more competition than anything else.  There has to be a winner, and a looser.  Kelsey and I got to talking about how competitive our culture is and how it seems to be getting worse.  As a society we seem to love it.  

Unity is more and more absent.  It's the opposite, people are always against each other.  Someone HAS to be the best.  In Sports, (and I love sports), the team you root for is "us"  and the opponents are "them".  "They" even start to take on distasteful qualities even though we can't see them across the stadium, the camera hardly shows them, and we know nothing about them. I think sports have a great place in society, I love them and support their underlying purpose.  However, something is happening that isn't so good.  This "raging" competition thing has started to define almost everything.  A form of excessive competition seems to have become the foundation for everything we think, say, do, watch, believe, participate in, and look to for entertainment.    

We are indeed a highly highly highly competitive society.  Unity is not even part of our orientation.  And when bits of it show up in the media it's often false unity because it's only to further one's own agenda.    

Today I read something that took this discussion about competition somewhere I wasn't expecting.  It's about the prophesied false churches of our day.     

The quote is in context of 2 Nephi 28:8:

"Nephi explains these latter-day false churches accomplish the opposite of Zion. In Zion everyone is to become "one." Zion is unified in purpose and in heart. In these false churches people become competitive with one another. This leads to dishonesty between them."

Here I was a little disgusted at TV, but then I read about how in false churches people become competitive with one another. Which leads to dishonesty. I had to consider this in my life. It hit deep.      

As I look around at the competition that sometimes playing out among the members, I can't help but agree that this occurs in our day.  Whether it's clothing and looks, or people's income level, or the kind of calling they have.  I'm lucky to have a very good Bishop and Elder's Quorum President currently.  I'm grateful for both.  However, I cannot argue that Nephi's words about latter day churches are pretty dang accurate.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Enter ye in

Jesus taught to enter onto a path.  It's offered to all but the scriptures are not shy about saying that few find it. Straight is the gate and narrow is the way. (Matthew 7:13-14) (Jacob 6:11).

The scriptures in more than a few places say that "few there be that find it".   I wonder all the time why that is. Luke records that even though many seek it, they won't be able to enter in (Luke 13:24).

So why? Is it because people were never even told about it?  How can you enter into something you didn't know about?  That wouldn't seem fair to limit someone because of something they honestly were not exposed to.  Since God is all knowing, all loving, and no respector of persons, I don't believe lack of exposure is why few find it.  But I leave the lack of exposure for another day as I don't currently know how God deals with billions of people and their various levels of exposure to divine teachings.

The concept of only few finding something has a great deal of potential pride about it.  In economic terms this idea instantly elevates the thing.  Since in our culture things that are only found by a few must be super valuable.  If you believe you are select, chosen, and so very superior to all others because you have something I question if the thing you found is what Christ offers.  Christ's offerings don't produce pride and arrogance.  If they do then I question what's really behind it.  This idea of few finding something can be terribly blinding.  If you are taught that you are the "few" do you even have any reason to consider if it's true?  What if you are taught you are the "few" but it's incorrect?  How blinding that would be!  Religious seem especially at risk of this, especially religions claiming to be the only true religion.   

I remember many years ago LDS church leaders assured me that being an active part of the organization and having received the outward ordinance of baptism was equivalent to finding "the path".  I don't believe that is correct.  If that were true than church membership would be a guarantee admission ticket. It isn't. Their reassuring words never did sit right, and looking back, I see why.  It wasn't all the way true.  Years later, by following the Holy Ghost, and my own answers to prayer I find a very different picture.   

The Book of Mormon adds a lot of clarity to the discussion of the path and the narrowness of the way. Nephi says in order to enter in, we must (among other things) keep the commandments, repent, be baptized, and then will come the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. At that point, Nephi says this "And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive." (2 Nephi 31:18)

The last part of that verse is instructive.  "...that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive."   Jesus said "I am the way".  We cannot enter in by following someone else, no matter how popular, sincere, adored, and no matter if people stand when they enter the room. Saying you follow Christ is not helpful unless you actually do what he says and taught.  Following commandments of men does not product the same thing as following Chris.  The doing is what opens up the truth.  But doing what Christ taught.  As contrasted with the endless variety of false religious traditions available at every turn. 

Christ's words make me pause and ask why "few there be that find it"? Aren't God's offerings available to all?  So why, if God makes invitations to all, do only a few find this path? Seems a little pessimistic when there are millions of church members and billions of people who have lived on earth.  A couple personal ponderings below.

Is this statement of Christ more like a description of reality rather than God's desire?  I believe God desires the salvation of His children.  Not just some few of them.  If God desires all to receive, but states that only a few find it, I honestly wonder if this is not so much about God's desire and intent for mankind as it is an unflattering description of us humans and how few people care enough about God to seek Him out and follow what God has revealed.  If there is something special about the "few" it's not in their pride or arrogance or unique lot in life, it's about their humility to receive from God.

Could it be that only a few are willing to really follow Christ? Do the rest prefer to follow men, other causes, charismatic leaders, or worldly philosophies?  Do they prefer the substitutes and deceptions?  I would hope not.  I don't have all the answers to those questions but it's interesting to ponder. 

Nephi prophetically answers some this with some of the major errors that surround us.

They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.  2 Nephi 28:14.

This is sobering.  Even the humble followers of Christ err due to what they are taught.  "all have gone astray".  Christ says few even find the path, and Nephi indicates some big reasons why in 2 Nephi chapter 28.  He's talking to Latter Day Saints even though at present we may be blinded by institutional fluff, or giddy about a change in missionary age.  But Nephi's audience are Mormons who are reading his book.  Not people who will never read it's pages. 

(I like the age change by the way, but I like even more the teachings about how to be one of the few that finds the path Christ speaks of.)  Nephi's words are living.  They are the words of God (2 Nephi 28:1).  Just because Nephi is dead, doesn't mean his words spoken by the power of the Spirit are.

Christ says to "enter ye in".  He wants this, desires this.  But entering in is a decision resting upon the individual.  The pessimistic numbers do not matter. Your heart is what matters.  Our humility.  Our openness to God. Our responsiveness to the still small voice that speaks to everyone.  Pride is common.  Arrogance is common.  Apparently meekness and humility are things only a few are even interested in.