Wednesday, March 13, 2013

In who's name?

At church recently (and on more than a few other occasions) a speaker (adult) concluded their talk with the words "In the name of thy son Jesus Christ amen".

I hear this probably once a month or more at some point during church regardless of the ward I attend.  It catches my ear for some reason.  In the name of "thy" son is what's said.  As if the speaker were giving the talk to God instead of the congregation.  Or perhaps the speakers inadvertently keep switching in to prayer mode.  The entire phrase "In the name of......amen" has become so common place, rushed, slurred, and sometimes trite that I worry it's lost its meaning, and intent.  Like a vain repetition that we have become conditioned to repeat so we can end our talk/lesson already.

Closing a comment or any form of communication in the name of someone else is common phraseology beyond religion. Shouldn't be new to anyone. Political situations, government communications, military communication, many many contexts involve someone speaking "in the name of" someone else. It means the words are approved by that person or are in fact the words of the person but are being relayed by someone else. To share a message that in fact does not meet that criteria begins to head towards bearing false witness.  I pass no judgement on anyone's speech that I hear at church, this is simply to draw attention to something that I think merits attention.  This entire discussion is related to the commandment to not take the Lord's name in vain.  That's the context I'm speaking from.

The widely-held view of the third great commandment is that it prohibits calling on deity in a vain or exclamatory manner, as with other vulgarities. But think for a moment how an ancient Israelite would have understood  the commandment to not profane God’s name. Though offensive yes, exclamations or derogatory usage is not the same as taking His name in vain.  “Taking the name of the Lord thy God in vain”, as the commandment is rendered in Hebrew, means the invoking of God’s name to justify doing something that God did not ask you to do. Such things misrepresent Him. Likewise saying you are speaking for Him when in reality you do not, is a misrepresentation of Him. It's vain.  If we are going to say something in the Lord's name, seems wise to be sure that you are actually doing that and not just pontificating or sharing philosophies or theories mingled with scripture. The Lord gave a warning related to this in Matthew 7:22-23.

Maybe the commandment to not use the Lords name in vain has less to do with profanity and more to do with saying we speak for Him when we don't. Speaking for someone whom you have never met and who has never given you a message to convey, yet still saying you are doing so anyway would be something important to consider.  I sometimes imagine what it would be like if we were not culturally conditioned to conclude talks or lessons in church the way we do. I've never seen any rule or procedure that says we are required to conclude with the phrase this post is discussing.... but then again I haven't read the official church handbook of instructions recently.  There are many ways to conclude a talk, but it's hard to even conceive of doing it differently due to how deeply ingrained our cultural traditions are.  But perhaps we should give it some thought.

Granted not all of us are perfect in our speech, but this tendency I've been writing about is frequent enough that it's gone beyond a slip of the tongue.  It's almost revealing something about our mindset and how we understand what it means to speak in the name of Christ.

Do we know the person for whom we say we speak?  Or do we speak these phrases just to speak?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

That which ye call anger

And ye have murmured because he hath been plain unto you. Ye say that he hath used sharpness; ye say that he hath been angry with you; but behold, his sharpness was the sharpness of the power of the word of God, which was in him; and that which ye call anger was the truth, according to that which is in God, which he could not restrain, manifesting boldly concerning your iniquities. (2 Nephi 1:26)

That which ye call anger......   It was actually the truth.

I think a tool of the devil is to distort the Lord's involvement and communication so it appears to us as something we should reject, or immediately judge out of defense.  I can only imagine how frequently truth, and light filled gestures from the Lord have been misinterpreted as angry and thus fought instead of accepted.  The Lord is not an angry being.  He asks us to be like him.  He teaches "be of good cheer" because that is how he is.

Lord, help us see You and your work for what they are, and not be blinded by limited and distorted perceptions of anger.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Who hath done it?

Before enjoying the harvests of righteous efforts, let us therefore first acknowledge God’s hand. Otherwise, the rationalizations appear, and they include, “My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth” (Deut. 8:17). Or, we “vaunt” ourselves, as ancient Israel would have done (except for Gideon’s deliberately small army), by boasting that “mine own hand hath saved me” (Judg. 7:2). Touting our own “hand” makes it doubly hard to confess God’s hand in all things (see Alma 14:11; D&C 59:21).

- Neil A Maxwell.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Pressure mistaken for promptings?

With the announcement regarding missionary age change I've noticed and been a part of some discussions lately that gave me pause.

Sister missionaries are now feeling more pressure to serve missions.  I've seen this consistently across many different circles.  The pressure for guys has been there as long as I've been alive but this recent change brings the matter to the surface again.  When the announcement was made regarding sister missionaries it was clearly stated that they do not have the same obligation and duty to serve a mission as the young men.  It was stated that if they desire to serve great, if not, that's perfectly acceptable as well.  Regardless of that, the culture has done what it sometimes does, which is do things a bit contrary to what leaders and doctrine state. 

One conversation yesterday was particularly interesting.  A sister missionary candidates voiced she was moving forward with plans to serve not totally due to promptings, but in large part due to pressure. Pressure and promptings are obviously not the same and should not be confused with one another. One of those comes from the Holy Ghost.  The other comes from our culture. The long term effects of acting on pressure vs acting in promptings are worth thinking about.  The outcome is vastly different.  The two can sometimes lead in opposite directions even. One can change the heart, the other often lacks the divine and thus will usually only lead to superficial changes, if any.  The temptation to succumb to pressure is something we all deal with in one way or another.  

The effect of this kind of cultural pressure seems to just create a herd mentality and an empty form of worship.  It produces no power, and often only mimics true faith.  The Holy Ghost does not have that effect.  We need the Holy Ghost as our constant companion.  Cultural pressure is constantly surrounding us so the need is as high as it's ever been to also have a divine gift that is an active, living part of our life.  It's not our will, nor the will of our culture or traditions, it's doing God's will that brings light and happiness.   

Joseph Smith said: The Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence. TPJS. 149-150.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Gospel Fruit

Loved this thought from a friend:

The "fruit" (Gospel Fruit) is primarily internal, changing the heart. When it comes to affecting others, it is only secondarily external. It is of course external in how you conduct your life, but not so when it comes to whether you will see others welcome the truth. Did Mormon have "fruit?" Measured by the external standard and during his lifetime, it was only his son and a small handful of others. But certainly he had "fruit." The same would be true of Nephi. Most of those in his own family rejected him.

If we abide in the True Vine, we can then bear fruit.