Monday, December 24, 2012

The Actual News

Alma 13:25

"And now we only wait to hear the joyful news declared unto us by the mouth of angels, of his coming; for the time cometh, we know not how soon. Would to God that it might be in my day; but let it be sooner or later, in it I will rejoice"

Joyful news.  I have yet to see much or any of that on the current day "news" stations or outlets.  I sometimes watch or read about local and broader events, but rarely find joy in it or find it edifying.  The joyful news I'm interested in is hard to come by from those kinds of sources.  

News is a "coincidental acronym" for North East West and South. We often miss the connection between that word and the four cardinal directions representing the earth.  Although the origin of the word is a matter of debate by etymologists I wonder if the word news has it origins in the Gospel, and the "good news" and "glad tidings" intended for all four corners of the Earth.  That's the actual news that matters.

Unfortunately the need and desire for humans to know of the events and goings on in other places can become merely a lucrative business.  Fear can be employed, along with emotionally charged headlines and endless debate.  Things can get twisted, left out, and other agendas sometimes distort the truth to draw in a bigger audience.  USA Today will report things very differently than say a Prophet of God relating a vision of the same events or time period.  Where you get your news is important.

The real news hopefully can still be what the Lord is doing in the north east west and south. That "news" is based on faith, the opposite of fear.  However to get the best quality news I think you have  to go to the scriptures and not major news outlets.  On that note, I think Isaiah is one of the the best news anchors the world has seen.

Isaiah 9:6 "For unto us a child born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."

May we not miss this evenings news.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Out of the Heart

Proverbs 4: 23:  "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."

Out of the heart are the issues of life. What could that mean?  Is it really possible that the issues of your life are due to, and come from what is within your own heart?  There's trouble everywhere in our world, but the most far-reaching trouble is the kind in your own heart.

How troubled are peoples hearts these days?  Not just physically with heart disease, but with anger, hurt, sadness, regret, pain, hopelessness and despair.  The state of our society can sometimes be an indicator of the sate of our collective hearts.  It's no wonder that out of the heart are the issues of life. 

In our culture it's not always common for your external circumstances to be consciously connected to what is in your heart.  But imagine if we made that connection, and explored it. Imagine what could be revealed?  Imagine how much more responsibility and thus influence we would all have in our own lives.  Imagine the doors that would open for progress  The heart is a tender place, with defense mechanisms akin to a large country and with a logic all it's own.  But it's often not all that complicated.  It's simple, but requires humility to to unlock.

We each know our own heart.  We know what is in there, we keep things hidden that we think no one else knows about.  We may even forget the things we have kept hidden.  But they affect our lives whether we recognize it or not.  The past burdens, the pain, the anger, the bitterness that has been locked away, and for the most part forgotten about effects every moment of our life for good or bad.

If we are to "keep our heart", we may need to treat it as we treat "keeping" the commandments (Hebrews 8:10, 2 Corinthians 3:3).  It can bring us freedom.        

The implications of Proverbs 4:23 are profound.

There is some interesting research being done and being published about the heart and the mind.  Here's an interesting sample of some of the scientific research on this topic.

"In 1991, one of the early pioneers in neurocardiology, Dr. J. Andrew Armour, introduced the concept of a functional "heart brain". His work revealed that the heart has a complex intrinsic nervous system of its own. The heart’s brain is an intricate network of neurons, neurotransmitters, protein neuropeptides and support cells identical to those found in the head brain. Its elaborate circuitry enables the heart to act independently of the cranial brain – to learn, remember, to feel and sense.

Since 2004, scientists like Rollin McCraty have researched the bio-electricity of the heart. Electromagnetic fields generated by the heart permeate every cell of the body and may act as a synchronizing signal for the body in a manner analogous to information carried by radio waves. This energy is not only transmitted internally to the brain but is also detectable by others within its range of communication. The heart generates the largest electromagnetic field in the body. The electrical field as measured in an electrocardiogram (ECG) is about 60 times greater in amplitude than the brain waves recorded in an electroencephalogram (EEG).

The magnetic component of the heart’s field is 5000 times stronger than that produced by the brain. It is not impeded by tissues and can be measured several feet away from the body with SQUID* based magnetometers. (*Superconducting Quantum Interference Device)"

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Nothing Wasted

No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God . . . and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.”

 - Orson F. Whitney

What an affirming statement. It's comforting.  It helps us know and understand more of God's nature.  I believe what Elder Whitney said to be true.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Truth in a Sentience

This is perhaps my favorite shortest verse of scripture.  It says it all.  Moroni penned it, or engraved it into metal plates to be more correct.  

"Wherefore, ye may also have hope, and be partakers of the gift, if ye will but have faith." 
(Ether 12:9)

His one sentience truth uses the word "Ye". So it's clear he's talking to the reader, whomever that reader may be. Which means you and I. We can partake if we will but have faith.

If we don't qualify, it's because we didn't have faith. Or in other words we had "unbelief", were full of false doctrine, followed errant leaders, were obsessed with vanity and were terminally blind, by choice. Once you read that verse you can't claim ignorance.  If we will but have faith we too can have hope and can partake of the heavenly gift. 

So if we don't qualify we were too stiffnecked, proud, or too distracted to be humble and give place in our hearts that the seed (The Word) may take root in us.  And by so doing we end up rejecting the gift. But we ask, Lord when did we reject you?  Lord, have we not attended Church?  Have we not worn fine apparel every Sunday?  Have we not adhered to the traditions of our fathers? Are we not part of the true Church?  Have we not done many wonderful works in your name? 

In the end we need to know the Lord, not just know about Him.  If we will but have faith in the true and living God, we can have hope, and partake of the heavenly gift.

Love that.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Faith causes things to happen

God worketh unto man according to their faith (Moroni 10:7), (Ether 12:29).  Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6).  This idea of God working with us according to our faith was the first thing Moroni chose to say after being comforted by words of the Lord regarding weaknesses and humility (see Ether 12:26-29).  

Faith is a principle of belief, of action, and of power in all intelligent beings, both in heaven and on earth.. (See Lectures on Faith, 7:2).

President Boyd K. Packer described faith, saying:

"There are two kinds of faith. One of them functions ordinarily in the life of every soul. It is the kind of faith born by experience; it gives us certainty that a new day will dawn…It is the kind of faith that relates us with confidence to that which is scheduled to happen… There is another kind of faith, rare indeed. This is the kind of faith that causes things to happen. It is the kind of faith that is worthy and prepared and unyielding, and it calls forth things that otherwise would not be. It is the kind of faith that moves people. It is the kind of faith that sometimes moves things… It is a marvelous, even a transcendent, power, a power as real and as invisible as electricity. Directed and channeled, it has great effect." (Boyd K. Packer, "What is Faith?" "Faith" [Salt Lake City: Desert Book Co., 1983], p. 42, emphasis added)

As I think about faith being a principle of action and power in all intelligent beings, it becomes clear we are all creatures of faith.  No matter what we do, it's faith based, experience and faith cause us to do what we do.  Although for the most part it's not viewed that way.

I got to wondering about when faith seems to result in things that are at first viewed as bad or uncomfortable. Sometimes it's easy to view such things as either God's displeasure, or even a lack of faith. However if bad things (as you perceive them) happen at what seems the very moment you try and exercise faith.....yet is your faith not working? The challenge then becomes to not misinterpret and falsely accuse, or charge foolishly (Job 1:22) what God is using to answer or teach.  I had the thought that just because some circumstance or answer didn't look perfect and pretty at first doesn't mean the faith was bad. May just mean there were lessons or important events or development that needed to occur first.  Faith causes things to happen....and probably a variety of things, some of which will be uncomfortable.    

Monday, December 10, 2012

Angels

This is a great piece on Angels from the Book of Moroni.  It's part of a series over at In Mount Zion blog.

"Mormon's sermon on faith, included in Moroni 7, enters the topic of the ministry of angels (Moro. 7:22).  Angels were sent to minister "unto the children of men" to teach them about Christ.  This statement about angels ministering unto men is general, not limited to a small group of leaders.  All men and women may and should receive angels, or true messengers.  These messengers are sent from the presence of God to teach them how to "begin" to exercise faith in Christ (Moro. 7:25).  This is the beginning of revealed religion.

It is by this faith that men are saved, and "become the sons of God" (Moro 7:26).  Mormon tries to convince his audience that miracles haven't ceased because Christ left and ascended into heaven.  Miracles haven't ceased, and angels haven't ceased to minister unto the children of men (Moro. 7:29).  They are subject unto Christ and are sent by him unto men (Moro. 7:30).

As long as there is one man left upon the earth to be savedso long as time shall last, angels will be sent to minister unto that man (Moro. 7:36).  Does this not imply that the ministry of angels is in some way inescapably tied to your salvation?  Can you be saved without the ministry of angels?  In other words, can you be prepared in all things, and be brought to the veil to meet your Lord without the guidance of true messengers?  What does the temple teach about this?  Do the teachings of the temple validate Mormon's testimony?

It is by faith that angels come to minister unto man (Moro. 7:37).  If angels have ceased to minister unto men, it is because of unbelief, and their religion is vain (ibid.).  "For no man can be saved, according to the words of Christ, save they shall have faith in his name (Moro. 7:38).


Both Mormon and Moroni speak unto you as if you were present (Morm. 8:35).  In order for their message to have the intended impact, you must actually believe the text is speaking to you personally.  Many in the Church insist passages like this are not meant to be taken personally.  You should read the text carefully and ask yourself if you're willing to believe that."

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Book of Job

This is a great excerpt by John S. Tanner, at a symposium down at BYU “Hast Thou Considered My Servant Job?

"If you are like me, you can scarcely keep your mind off Job. His trials come to my mind almost daily as I read or hear or experience fresh instances of unaccountable misery—especially the suffering of innocent victims. The book of Job is as timely as today’s headlines telling of blameless children starving in the Sudan or beaten, raped, and murdered in Midvale. It is as timeless as the cry of the widow and the fatherless, whose collected tears over the course of world history would fill a great sea of grief. When life forces us “to feel what wretches feel” (King Lear 3.4.34), the book of Job stands as a permanent scriptural referent for our anguish. This power to sensitize us to suffering is alone reason enough to “consider Job,” long and hard. For in our quest to become more compassionate disciples of Him who “hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4), it is good for us, like Him, to be “touched with the feeling of [others’] infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15).

I'm convinced that strictly speaking, the book of Job’s central concern lies not with the philosophical problem of evil but with the personal problem of despair; not with God’s relationship to evil but man’s relationship to God out of the midst of “evil.” Job’s sense of godforsakenness is the real problem he must endure and overcome. To put the matter succinctly, the problem Job treats involves relationship; the answer it provides entails revelation. The book of Job teaches us how to endure suffering, not the reason for it.
Let me explain. If we look at the text, we observe that Job is never told the reason for his afflictions. We also note that the text devotes but a few brief (albeit vivid) verses to the description of Job’s physical pain. To be sure, Job’s boils are deeply etched upon our memories, but they are not the main source of his suffering. In fact, Job endured physical pain in silence. When he finally cried out, after abiding seven days and seven nights in complete silence, Job complained not of boils but of betrayal: “Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul” (Job 3:20). It is as if Job’s cancerous skin disease ate its way inward during his long week of brooding, ulcerating his spirit until he became “bitter in soul.” However difficult to bear, Job’s physical pain was most embittering for what it seemed to him to betoken: a violated relationship with God.
Job’s relationship to God remains the focus throughout the dialogues. Physical affliction forms but the occasion, not the main topic, of the ensuing dialogues, which make no further reference to Job’s specific personal losses or boils. Instead, Job’s friends come with glib explanations about why Job suffered. Their pious advice—accept your suffering, Job, as punishment for your sins—not only provide him cold comfort but, if accepted, would have perverted Job’s absolutely honest relationship with the Almighty. To follow their counsel would have forced Job to live a lie by confessing to the Lord that he felt he deserved his affliction—which he did not, and should not feel. Such “comfort” exonerates God by charging man with depravity, so that no matter what happens to man, the pious religionist can always say, “God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth” (Job 11:6). 

The book of  Job warns us against reasoning backward from peoples’ external circumstances to the condition of their souls. To do so traps us in a logical fallacy of an “if-then” argument called “affirming the consequent.” If-then sequences are not reversible: If A then B does not permit the reverse conclusion, B therefore A. If a man is a millionaire, then he may buy a Mercedes, but if he buys a Mercedes, he is not necessarily a millionaire. Or, to apply the same principles to Job, if a man is wicked then he may (and ultimately will) suffer, but if he suffers he is not necessarily wicked. Sinfulness may result in suffering, but suffering does not necessarily imply sinfulness. The same holds true for the corollary: virtue may result in prosperity, but prosperity does not necessarily imply virtue. You cannot reason backwards from the fact of prosperity or suffering to the state of the soul, as Job’s comforters try to do. “Affliction is not necessarily evidence that one has sinned,” the Bible Dictionary wisely concludes."

Tanner, John S., “‘Hast Thou Considered My Servant Job?’” in Sperry Symposium Classics: The Old Testament, ed. Paul Y. Hoskisson (Provo and Salt Lake City: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, and Deseret Book 2005), 266–282.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hugh Nibley on Isaiah

The following are a few excerpts from a piece by Hugh Nibley on the book of Isaiah.  The title is "Great are the words of Isaiah"   This stuff is amazing.  Click on the citation at the bottom for the full essay.  It's awesome.  

"There is nothing authoritarian about him (The Lord); he is constantly willing to discuss and explain. His most threatening statements are instantly followed by what seems a reversal of mood and judgment. He is always willing, ready, waiting, urging, patiently pleading; it is Israel that will not hear, it is they who break off the discussion and walk away, turning their back upon Him and asking Him to please be quiet."

"You can always find somebody who is worse than you are to make you feel virtuous. It’s a cheap shot: those awful terrorists, perverts, communists—they are the ones who need to repent! Yes, indeed they do, and for them repentance will be a full-time job, exactly as it is for all the rest of us."


(Addressing idols and idolatry)
"There is the famous story of the Eloquent Peasant from the Middle Kingdom in Egypt that tells how the rascally manager of an estate, when he saw a peasant passing by on his way to the market with a load of goods, cried out, “Would that I had some idol that would permit me to rob this man’s goods.” A dumb image would offer no opposition to any course he chose to take. That was the beauty of idols: they are as impersonal and amoral as money in the bank—the present-day as well as the ancient equivalent of a useful idol."

"For the rest of the time I want to talk about those human qualities Isaiah describes as pleasing to God and those qualities He despises. They both come as a surprise. As to the second, the traits and the behavior Isaiah denounces as the worst of vices are without exception those of successful people. The wickedness and folly of Israel do not consist of indolence, sloppy dressing, long hair, nonconformity (even the reading of books), radical and liberal unrealistic ideas and programs, irreverence toward custom and property, contempt for established idols, and so on. The wickedest people in the Book of Mormon are the Zoramites, a proud, independent, courageous, industrious, enterprising, patriotic, prosperous people who attended strictly to their weekly religious duties with the proper observance of dress standards. Thanking God for all He had given them, they bore testimony to His goodness. They were sustained in all their doings by a perfectly beautiful self-image. Well, what is wrong with any of that? There is just one thing that spoils it all, and that is the very thing that puts Israel in bad with the Lord, according to Isaiah. The Jews observed with strictest regularity all the rules that Moses gave them—”and yet . . . they cry unto thee” and yet they are really thinking of something else. “Behold, O my God, their costly apparel, . . . all their precious things . . . their hearts are set upon them, and yet they cry unto thee and say—We thank thee, O God, for we are a chosen people unto thee, while others shall perish” (Alma 31:27–28; emphasis added)."

"He describes the party people, the fast set: “Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!” (Isaiah 5:11). They are stupefied by the endless beat of the Oriental music that has become part of our scene: “And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of his hands” (Isaiah 5:12). And of course there is the total subservience to fashion: “Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go” (Isaiah 3:16)—in the immemorial manner of fashion models. An instructive list of words from the boutiques that only the fashion-wise will know tells us that “the Lord will take away . . . their cauls, and their round tires like the moon, the chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers, the bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings, the rings, and nose jewels” (Isaiah 3:18–21), and of course clothes, “the changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins” (Isaiah 3:22). Their beauty aids will defeat their purpose as their hair falls out and their perfumes are overpowered (see Isaiah 3:24)."

 Nibley, Hugh W., “Great Are the Words of Isaiah” in Sperry Symposium Classics: The Old Testament, ed. Paul Y. Hoskisson (Provo and Salt Lake City: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, and Deseret Book 2005), 177–195.

Grace

This is a great piece on grace.  Black words are mine.  Green are the quote.
"The relationship of grace helps us understand more fully this passage in Doctrine and Covenants: “[Christ] received not of the fullness at the first, but received grace for grace; And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness. . . . I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness. For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace” (D&C 93:12–13, 19–20; emphasis added).  

(Sometimes emulating the grace Christ had seems impossible.  However within the context of our own lives, jobs, families and neighborhoods, we too can follow and do as Christ did and receive grace for grace)  
By this scripture we understand that as Christ gave grace to those around Him, He received from His Father increasingly more grace to give. Thus, receiving grace for grace, Jesus grew from grace to grace: a model for us. “Freely ye have received, freely give,” the Savior told His disciples (Matthew 10:8). The Lord has blessed each of us individually many times over with many more forms of grace than we now know or could count. Perhaps all of the Lord’s grace to us—His many kindnesses to each of us, our talents, our gifts of spirit and personality, our bodies, our material resources—is given to us so that we will have something to give one another. As we give of this grace in countless ways to those around us, especially where it may not seem to be merited, the Lord increases His gifts of grace to us; in this process of our receiving grace forthe grace we give, we grow from grace to grace, as Christ did, until we obtain a fulness.
Living in such a relationship as the Father and the Son’s, either on earth or in heaven, requires a total willingness to dethrone oneself as the regent in one’s own kingdom and to enthrone Christ as He enthroned the Father. President Ezra Taft Benson observed that “Christ removed self as the force in His perfect life. It was not my will, but thine be done.

"In scenes recorded in 3 Nephi, the resurrected, perfected Christ gave abundant evidence of His continuing dependence on His Father. He makes frequent reference to the commandments and will of His Father. He seems very eager to return to the full presence of His Father (3 Nephi 17:4); we see Him kneel and bow Himself to the earth, pouring out both His troubled heart (3 Nephi 17:14) as well as His joy (3 Nephi 17:20–21), His thanks (3 Nephi 19:20, 28), and His needs (3 Nephi 19:21, 29). Perhaps this relationship of divine dependence and atonement continues far into the eternities. It is revealed to us in this life so we can learn to live in that relationship and thus gain admission to that community of grace-linked Gods.

Thomas, M. Catherine, “The Provocation in the Wilderness and the Rejection of Grace” in Sperry Symposium Classics: The Old Testament, ed. Paul Y. Hoskisson (Provo and Salt Lake City: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, and Deseret Book 2005), 164–176.