Saturday, March 22, 2014


I was offered a change of position at work this week.  Some co-workers congratulated me.   It didn't strike me as odd, and I found myself congratulating others who had also received a recognition or promotion.  I saw it as an appropriate gesture of recognition for their work and efforts.

Ironically this week there were a number of changes of position at Church.  As the bishop extended new callings to my wife and I, many ward members and family members were, upon finding out, repeatedly saying "congratulations".  As if the callings indicated some achievement.  It seemed almost as if to say that as a result of faithful service one had "ascended" up the Church Organizational chart.  Or even that you've ascended a rung closer to God.  I do not see it this way and so felt very funny upon hearing congratulations in this context of a calling to serve in a new capacity.  It suggests just how much of a business the Church has become both in practice and in the minds and culture we live in.  Callings sometimes get viewed as an indicator of someones spirituality or perceived righteousness.

There's nothing wrong with supporting someone, or sustaining them in the capacity they have been called to serve.  We're all supposed to do that.  It just seems the higher up the Church Org Chart you are "called" the more praise and honor and congratulations others offer you.  There is something amiss in that mindset although I can't totally put words to it.  God's authority and power aren't gained in the same way and fashion one obtains earthly power and authority.  There are undoubtedly status and power symbols in the Church related to callings.  Therefore it makes sense there would be a draw for folks to seek after or aspire to various callings because there is power and social status associated to it.

But I find no examples in scripture that support that kind of culture.  When someone is called by the Lord to do something, it more often than not brings upon them trouble, rejection, misunderstanding, judgement, etc...

I don't think callings in the Church were intended to heighten our pride, or give us increased sense of achievement and recognition among our fellow man.  

That's just me though.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Greatness of God

Mosiah 4:11 And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.

King Benjamin, having received a message from an angel holds a conference.  Among the teachings is this verse that his people should retain in remembrance the greatness of God.  Such remembrance is the first thing in a list of inspired exhortations in vs 11.  This message had to be repeated "I say again".  The message was first spoken back in verse 5 and 6.   Notice the "if".

5 For behold, if the knowledge of the goodness of God at this time has awakened you to a sense of your nothingness, and your worthless and fallen state—
6 I say unto you, if ye have come to a knowledge of the goodness of God, and his matchless power, and his wisdom, and his patience, and his long-suffering towards the children of men; and also, the atonement which has been prepared from the foundation of the world, that thereby salvation might come to him that should put his trust in the Lord, and should be diligent in keeping his commandments, and continue in the faith even unto the end of his life, I mean the life of the mortal body—

The verses refer to our "worthless and fallen state".  Vs 11 say to retain a remembrance our nothingness and that we are unworthy creatures.  I don't think that realization was intended to come exclusively from comparison to our fellow man. They are fallen too, so that's not the right comparison. The unworthy fallen state is by comparison to God. The whole sermon is teaching about God. Knowledge of the glory of God and tasting his goodness and greatness will naturally bring your own nothingness and unworthiness to the forefront of your awareness. We are supposed to receive or experience that, then retain it in remembrance.

It's all kind of a circular thing. Chapter 4 and 5 of Mosiah show that a message from God, as these people received, can produce a view of our true state. That realization/view triggers a very specific reaction. The people in these chapters cried out to God, with faith in Jesus Christ which brought The Spirit, forgiveness, joy, and knowledge of God.  Then they are taught to retain in remembrance the same thing that brought them to that position of humility in the first place. The next step is the first step all over again.  Least that message seems pretty clear form these verses.  This "conference" in Mosiah would be a nourishing and uplifting semiannual read.

There is a truly amazing human tendency to find what works, and then almost immediately begin doing something else.  It's truly amazing how frequently it occurs.  But that's a whole different discussion.

A true message wakes you up. Finding yourself awake in a lone and fallen world leads a person to cry out to God in faith to have the atoning blood of Christ applied to them.  Then it naturally leads you to want the same for others.  This is the kind of thing a message from God will lead you to do.  A message not from God will not do this.  It will sooth you, bore you, imply things by warming your emotions but leave you empty.  It will neglect to tell you that you are in danger and there is a need to repent, all of us.  For the praise of the world it will cheat you of saving truth.  You'll be tempted to chant "all is well, for we prosper exceedingly and our wealth will sustain us".  It will tempt you to "fear a little if you must, but at last we shall all be saved in the kingdom of God as a Church group". It will point you to idols, and it will be vain. It will not bring the results these scriptural people experienced nor explain it in simplicity.

There are no good English words sufficient to describe God's greatness. You must experience it for yourself. But when you do, mans unworthiness and nothingness is blaring. Our pride is painful, and confronting the holiness of God produces a view of being less significant that the dust of the earth.  It's a different kind of experience than having poor self esteem. It's a humility based on looking up, rather than looking down at yourself.  The scriptures teach it's not found in the philosophies of man, but instead in the Gospel, and in humility. But not the Gospel according to the Scholars.  Or the Gospel according to the condemned.  Or the Gospel according to predominate culture.  King Benjamin let us know his message came from God, through an angel. 

There is an approach to joy which brings light and freedom from so much focus on your self image.  Its to retain in remembrance or gain an experience with the greatness of God. This is hard to do while being caught up in your own greatness. Also difficult while being caught up in the greatness of the men who lead us or whom we watch on TV. 

Being humble can be maintained by keeping God's greatness and our state in remembrance.  By looking up, we show hope in God, symbolically we can reach up with both hands above our head as a small child does when he or she wants to be lifted up by a parent. It's a powerful symbol all of us have seen. Humility grows as a result of increasing awareness of who He is, and what He has done for us.

I believe this King's message to be true. We ought to awake, and then retain in remembrance the greatness of God.  Maybe it's not that our faith or effort isn't great.  I wonder sometimes if it's that we don't believe in a great God.  We believe incorrect traditions, and false ideas instead.  But I guess the verse above did say "if" we had come to the knowledge of God. If we haven't yet we are invited to by following the same Gospel as these people did. You'll know it's the same if it produces the same fruit. 

Monday, March 3, 2014


When the 10 commandments were given all but two began with the words "thou".  Honor thy father and thy mother likewise specifies "thy".  "Thou shalt", or "thou shalt not" makes it clear it was singular, and meant to be personal.  It didn't say "Everyone shalt",  Or "all thy neighbors shalt", or "your coworker shalt not" "thy family members shalt all"  "The whole world shalt not".  It was not a rule to be pointed outward, it was a direction for the individual pointing inward. "Thou" shalt.

Have you ever applied your religion externally?  It's easy to do, and it inevitably leads to strife.  There's something some might call eerily satisfying about using your religious beliefs as a measuring stick with which we evaluate others.  Especially so when the comparison makes you look good, or feel superior.  We should all be careful of that one.  On this topic it needs to be said that there's a difference between sharing light and truth, and setting an example on the one hand vs letting commandments and religion become the measuring stick with which to judge and evaluate others.  It sounds like common sense that pointing the commandments outward was never the intent of the commandments.  But it's a big pitfall and..... it never works out. 

The Lord spoke in scripture about the standard we use to measure and judge others being the very standard that would be use against us (Matthew 7:2).  Therefore wise to refrain from judging or misapplying what were meant to be internal standards to others. Measuring or assessing others based on religious views or some other related measuring stick we've come up with almost always comes across as self-righteous, proud, and will turn the other person off to what you are about.  Sometimes for a long period of time. I can't think of many times when such approaches have ever made another person suddenly start behaving the way you think they ought to.  I've never seen it.  Standing up for the truth isn't about being right at how wrong others are.  Standing up for the truth is being firm in how you should act before God and allowing others to determine that for themselves.  Their religion is between them and God anyway.  Your's is between you and God.

In the end others will answer for themselves.  Approaching others free of evaluations and judgement is a very different experience than the alternative.  It's freeing.  If you've ever interacted with those types of people I'm sure you came away noticing that it is much more enjoyable to be around those folks.  They give you space.  It feels good.

The Lord began the most well known commandments with the word "thou".   If you consider yourself one to whom those commandments are addressed then that's great.  It's God's word.  But to revert them into something you apply to others can surely only lead to disaster.  That's more like commandment malpractice and I've recognized this in myself.  However I've found it much more enjoyable to not do that.  How true it is that what others should or should not be doing is best left between them and God.  It's so much lighter to approach life that way.  It free's us to love, and serve without being burdened by the scales of judgement.

I don't think the experience of Saul where it says "there fell from his eyes as it had been scales" is something beyond our comprehension or realm of possibility (Acts 9:18).