Friday, December 22, 2017

A&C Series - Flee from the cares and longings that belong to Babylon

Flee from the cares and longings that belong to Babylon, obtain a new heart, for you have all been wounded. In me you will find peace and through me will come Zion, a place of peace and safety.  A&C pg 7 

So who and what is Babylon? Some ancient city long destroyed? Some modern metaphor? Or a code-word for something or some civilization in our day?  

The Answer and Covenant refers to cares and longings.  "Cares" implies concern or attachment.  "Longings" implies some intense yearning, some deep need, some issue of the heart that intensely seeks fulfillment.   The A&C says to flee from the ones belonging to Babylon.  I believe many of our longings and cares are put there by God, intended to be filled by God.  In our fallen state, we are in a sense seeking them from sources (lovers) that will not satisfy.  Infidelity.  It won't work.  The A&C says to stop doing or flee what isn't going to work anyway.  

Below are some quotes I've organized while studying this topic.

"Babylon includes all the false religious, philosophical, educational and governmental systems of the world. Though the point will inevitably be reached in which Babylon will war against the Saints, the outcome is certain: Babylon will fall. However, temporarily at least, Babylon appears to have the upper hand. She dominates in culture, values, philosophy, government and economics. Babylon is the presiding mistress of the world. However it looks to the contrary, Babylon's existence continues only with tolerance from the Lord. As soon as it pleases Him to remove her, she will be gone.

Fleeing in our day is more attitudinal, than geographic. (Nephi's Isaiah, Denver Snuffer 2006)

"The picture of "fleeing" suggests dramatic, even heroic effort to overcome a location within Babylon. We sometimes think we can get where we need to be by a saunter, rather than by flight. The gravitational pull of Babylon has always been such that escape can only be obtained by flight." 

Revelation 17:3-5

So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.  And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

Babylon is also a "mother".  Who would her children be?

Nephi taught hat there are save two churches only. One is the Church of the Lamb of God....

"The other and all-inclusive great church is comprised of all philosophies, all belief systems, all unbelief systems, all rationalizations, all theories and vanities that distract people from repenting and following Christ. These vary from very good things that are uplifting, and possess even great portions of truth, to the degrading and perverse. This all-inclusive church is a "whore" because she is completely indiscriminate and open for all to have her acceptance and affection. She welcomes you. The only requirement being that you have false beliefs." 

"The great illusion of a whore is to imagine she likes you. To imagine she cares for you. To imagine she 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. Her bodily diseases are less virulent than her contamination of the soul. Empty, false, vain and foolish thoughts occupy the imagination of those who have intercourse with the great whore. She prefers the lie, relies on it. You would not be her customer if not for the lies."

"This is the order the Lord's return will crush, because it is the commerce of Babylon to trade in the "souls of men." (Rev. 18: 13.) Churches, like the Roman Catholic Church, or some of the Fundamentalist LDS sects, claim to hold keys to consign men to hell or raise them to heaven. Such purported keys and power from God let them trade in the souls of men. These are the only ones who could conceivably trade in the "souls of men" referred to in Revelation. They are, therefore, Babylon, and the target of the Lord's destruction at His return." 

No wonder we should flee from that.  

Thursday, December 21, 2017

A&C Series - Joy and Rejoice

The word rejoice is listed 11 times in the Answer and Covenant, including the previous revelations that were part of the A&C.

All 11 listed below:  (parenthesis mine for context)

1.  There is great reason to rejoice because of the work that has been done.  (Current day work on the restoration edition of the scriptures).  Pg 1.

2. Behold, your sins are forgiven you; you are clean before me; therefore, lift up your heads and rejoice.  (Revelation to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdry)  Pg 4

3&4. Let the hearts of your brethren also rejoice, and let the hearts of all my people rejoice who have, with their might, built this house to my name. For behold, I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house.  (Revelation to Joseph, speaking about the Kirtland Temple)  Pg 4

5. Behold and see: the hearts of thousands and tens of thousands shall greatly rejoice in consequence of the blessings that shall be poured out.  (Same revelation to Joseph and Oliver) Pg 4.

6&7.  Rejoice in me, and rejoice with your brethren and sisters who are mine also.  Pg 7

8. Then by my law and my word they will be mine and I will be with and lead my people onward through the Spirit of Truth, the Comforter, the Record of Heaven, the peaceable things of immortal glory, even the Holy Ghost which will abide with them, and you will be children of the Most High God, fellow servants and numbered with the congregation of the just. Therefore rejoice!  Pg 9

9&10.  But if righteousness returns and my people prove by their actions, words and thoughts to yield to my Spirit and hearken to my commandments, then will the Earth rejoice, for the feet of those who cry peace upon her mountains are beautiful indeed, and I, the Lord, will bring again Zion, and the earth will rejoice.  Pg 9

11.  Be comforted, be of good cheer, rejoice, and look up, for I am with you who remember me, and all those who watch for me, always, even unto the end. Amen.  Pg 10

On the same note, the word joy appears in the A&C as follows:

If you return good for evil you will cleanse yourself and know the joy of your Master.  Pg 7.

So what reason do we have for all these statements about rejoicing?  God is a God of Joy.  He wants people to rejoice and have joy.  Yet I admit I don't really understand how to rejoice.  When I look around me at the events of 2017 and even among those who attempt to be God's people there does not appear to be any great reason to rejoice.  They say it's difficult to see and understand events as you are living them.  They become more clear with hindsight.

I personally struggle at times with what rejoicing means our ought to look like.  Growing up in the LDS church external demonstrations of rejoicing, or expressions of joy and delight are not common.  And the rejoicing often seen in other churches is something my upbringing taught me was inappropriate or weird or not suitable for the solemn, dignified, and sober, attitude I was always supposed to have.  Nothing I hear these days during a typical 3 hour block of LDS meetings causes me to do anything other than mourn. Let alone rejoice.

The times when I have felt the joy and rejoicing the scriptures speak of were moments of closeness to the Lord.  Moments when His love and His light were around me and in me.  Those indeed caused my heart to rejoice.  Often I could find not adequate external expression, nor were words adequate.  But those moments for me have not always been permanent.  Life returns to normal and there are bills to pay, kids to raise, and challenges to overcome.

But what I have learned is that our Lord is joyful.  So I seek joy, because I seek the Lord and His righteousness.  And the Lord says to rejoice.  Because of Him, we can.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A&C Series - Do not Murmur

"Do not murmur saying, Too much has been required at our hands in too short a time. If your hearts were right it was a light thing I have asked. You hinder and delay and then you say I require too much of you and do not allow you time, when, if your hearts were right and you prepared yourselves you could have finished this work long ago."

Murmuring in the scriptures, to the best I can find, is always used negatively.   It's something that, if avoided, is universally a good thing.

Websters Dictionary: Murmur:
1: a half-suppressed or muttered complaint : grumbling
murmurs of disapproval

2a : a low indistinct but often continuous sound

1828 Dictionary: 

2. To grumble; to complain; to utter complaints in a low, half articulated voice; to utter sullen discontent; with at, before the thing which is the cause of discontent.

1 Nephi 2:12, Nephi gives an interesting cause for his brothers murmuring.   

12 And thus Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father. And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.

I found that very informative.   Nephi in particular used the word "murmur" a lot in his writing, more than any other scripture author.  Nephi's brothers murmured because they "knew not the dealings of that God who had created them".  Their lack of knowledge caused them to murmur.  They didn't understand, because they didn’t do what was required to understand, and didn’t know what God was up to.  So, naturally they complained, and what usually goes along with all that is some degree of going against what God is doing.

So one antidote for murmuring?  Acquire knowledge of God's dealings.  How do we do that?  Nephi as it turns out talked to his brothers one time (at least) about their lack of understanding. Their reply was that they had not inquired of the Lord and that “the Lord maketh no such things known to us”.

8 And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?
9 And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.

So they were left without understanding because they opted not to follow the steps Nephi had done in developing faith.  Nephi says in a few instances in the BOM says that he "murmured not".  And what allowed him to not murmur?  Was it merely stoic endurance? A positive mental attitude?  Or  was it a perspective that comprehended or had faith in what God was doing?  Even if he didn't like it, or found it very unpleasant, or caused him to suffer, he was able to not murmur.  At least knowing that God is up to something allows the person to show faith rather than murmuring.  This takes time and experience, at least for me.  But enough others have done it that we ought to give it a try.  

In my experience, this hold true.  I'm inclined to do things like murmur when I see no point to something, or do not see God's hand on something, or feel like I'm enduring something pointlessly.  In hindsight once Gods hand is a little more clear the murmuring was unjustified and uncalled for.  As the A&C paragraph at the beginning shows, the murmuring is uncalled for and the Lord explains why. 

So it amounts to my own lack of knowledge of God's dealings.  I can see God's dealings all throughout scripture.  Unfortunately it's often harder to see it in your own life, when the dealing gets tough.  But from Nephi's example, faith in God's dealings is a realistic thing to obtain.  It's substantial enough to put faith in.  It's something we can lay hold on.  And there is evidence in scripture that God responds very positively when people do not murmur against him.  He already knows our difficulties.

Our murmuring is something we ought to take accountability for.  It seems to always stem from our own lack of harmony with God, our own hearts which are hard or not right, or our own lack of knowledge of his dealings.  

The good news is Isaiah 29: 24 They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A&C Series - Obtain a new heart

Flee from the cares and longings that belong to Babylon, obtain a new heart, for you have all been wounded. In me you will find peace and through me will come Zion, a place of peace and safety. 
A&C pg 7

Obtaining a new heart is preceded by being told to flee from Babylon.  Which suggests our hearts are set on the wrong stuff.  They are set on the stuff of Babylon. 

Consider this next quote in the context of a new heart:

“By getting in harmony with the Lord you find that, YOU are a lot more tolerable to others and others are suddenly more tolerable to you. Even defective others are more tolerable to you, if you’re in harmony with the Lord. Because if you can see them as the Lord sees them- they are beautiful, they are wonderful! Every one you have ever met is a child of your Heavenly Father and if you can get the heavenly gift then you stop seeing things through the lens of this world and you start seeing things as they really are.”

Denver Snuffer Zion Symposium Talk

This is different from how the world says to deal with intolerable people.  This suggests as WE align with the Lord not only are we more tolerable people, but others are more tolerable to us.

But back to the phrase I wanted to write about in this post.  "Obtain a new heart, for you have all been, wounded".  The linking word "for" connects the need for a new heart with wounds.  Our wounds create the need for newness.  A healed heart.  Hurt people tend to hurt people, healed people tend to help heal people. In another part of the A&C it says:

You bear the scars on your countenances, from the soles of your feet to the head, and every heart is faint. Your visages have been so marred that your hardness, mistrust, suspicions, resentments, fear, jealousies and anger toward your fellow man bear outward witness of your inner self; you cannot hide it.  (pg 7)

Our hearts are faint.  Our visages marred.  Actions like hardness, mistrust, suspicions, resentments, fear, jealousy and anger display what is in us!  It reveals us.  It reveals the mess we typically try and hide.  But we cannot hide it.

As I think about a "new heart" I'm reminded of a few related items that are prophesied for the last days that will become "new".  Scriptures speak of all things being made new again.  New heaven, new earth, new covenant, and new hearts.  First with the new heaven and new earth:

"When the pole star changes, which happens about seven times every 25,900 years, anciently that change was called “A New Heaven”. Likewise there is a different constellation that appears at sunrise on the vernal equinox, and that constellation tells you what age you’re in. When there’s a new constellation on the horizon at the vernal equinox, that’s called a New Earth. There will be a New Heaven and there will be a New Earth when Christ returns."

Christian Lecture #3 Atlanta-Fullerton Central Library – Atlanta, Georgia Thursday - November 16, 2017 Denver Snuffer

If we want to survive that return, we'll need a new heart. So how do we obtain a new heart?  If there are signs in the heavens and earth to indicate when there is a "new" heaven or a "new" earth, what are the signs of a new heart?  (see first quote above about being in harmony with the Lord)

Mosiah 5:7

7 And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.

The verse teaches hearts change through faith on HIS name. Not faith in man, not faith in government, not faith in your associates. Faith on HIS name. His power, His grace, His love, His mercy and long suffering. I personally think we need a direct experience with Christ and His attributes. That is what changes us. But that only comes from repentance. But we are so easily distracted from the weightier matters onto trivial things.  This next quote sums that up.

"Because this generation does not understand their precarious situation, they are unable to repent. But it is only repentance which can save some few souls. People are so quickly and easily drawn away from the challenge to repent before God into some other vain and foolish track."

Denver Snuffer Blogpost 

But if we do repent, speaking of latter day Israel: Ezekiel 36: starting in vs 26

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.

Jeremiah 31:33.  Also speaking of latter day Israel.

But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

 The Lord's law is to be written in our hearts.  Not on tablets of stone, due to a stony heart.  Even that law was designed to break the stony hearts.  We need the Lord to give us a new heart.  Not pretend our heart is good.  Or just refrain from letting the bad stuff out.  We need a new one.  And we can have confidence that he will, because he said he would, and his promises are sure.  We need to find a true message from God, find humility within us to experiment upon the word, act in faith, believing we can receive, and gain light by living the light God promises he will give to those who sincerely and humbly ask.  We need an open heart, a soft heart, a humble heart, new understanding, new feelings, in essence, a new heart. 

Anciently the “heart” was considered the seat of understanding rather than emotion. Therefore an “open heart” belonged to the seeker, the asker, the knocker on the door. (See, e.g., Matt. 7:7-11.)
Other Sheep Indeed- By Denver C. Snuffer, Jr. © 2017 Presented at the Salt Lake City Sunstone Symposium 

Revelation 21:5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

A&C Series - Study to learn how to Respect...

"Study to learn how to respect your brothers and sisters and to come together by precept, reason and persuasion rather than sharply disputing and wrongly condemning each other causing anger."  -
A&C pg8

The Lord said to study to learn how to respect our brothers and sisters.  Study what?  What is it we need to study so as to know "how" to respect our brothers and sisters and to come together?  The phrase implies we don't have a skill, and don't have a level of understanding that would bring greater respect and lead to respectful disagreement.

I've begun my study with scripture, and some very interesting ideas originating from the ancient teachings of other cultures.

Toltec Wisdom:

Here's an idea I read about that comes from ancient Toltec Wisdom.  It's titled: "Don't take things personally".  Taking things personally, according to this Toltec idea, is an example of "personal importance".  Personal importance or taking things personally is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about "me".   It's not. The idea goes further to say nothing other people do is because of you.  It's because of themselves.  It's their reality, their beliefs, their mind, their heart, their dream.  Everyone is living in their own reality, they are in a totally different world from anyone else.  They can't truly say something personal about another because they have not lived in the other persons world with their past, and their experiences.  Each persons point of view comes from their own life, not anyone else's.  The things we say and do are projections of our own minds, thoughts, beliefs, and opinions.  The good and bad others say to you,  the Toltec idea is don't take it personally.  It wasn't about you.  If we make it a practice to not take things personally we avoid many upsets in our life.  Our anger jealousy and envy will dissipate.  Because it wasn't always about us.  Our own anger, fear, and jealousy is very much about us however.  And that we must take responsibility for.

Another idea from this Toltec wisdom is to stop making assumptions.  The issue with assumptions is we believe they are the truth.  If we don't understand something, it's better to either let it go, or ask and be clear, rather than assuming.

On another note a few scriptural examples have come to mind about disagreements.  We have plenty of examples of how not to disagree with each other, but what about the successful ones?  Those can easily go unnoticed.  It's a little like social media.  It's common to post things online that go terribly wrong.  Or contrarily, show off how amazing your life is, or some fun vacation, or some expensive something or other.  But how many posts do you see where someone describes a financial sacrifice they made to stay on a family budget?  About an argument they didn't have with a spouse because they chose to be humble and avoid anger.  The good examples are often lost in the mix of the loud or distracting messages.   The good examples often do not draw our attention.  But they are there, humbly outside the spotlight.


This next scriptural example has gotten some attention.  It's good though. Moroni and Pahoran's letter exchange. Moroni censures Pahoran, thinking he is being a lazy and idle and corrupt politician and has neglected God, the commandments, and his duties, and has thus caused enormous suffering for Moroni and his troops.  Alma 60.  Give it a quick read.

Pahoran does not take the censure he receives personally.  Why?  How is it Pahoran didn't take this personally? It's because he had a clear conscience.  In his words:  Alma 61:9:

"And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart. I, Pahoran, do not seek for power, save only to retain my judgment-seat that I may preserve the rights and the liberty of my people. My soul standeth fast in that liberty in the which God hath made us free."

"My soul standeth fast int hat liberty in the which God hath made us free".  He had nothing to hide, had no evil for which to defend.  He had repented.  His desires were righteous.  He didn't need to defend them because he seemed to have had that unique knowledge that the course of life he was pursuing was pleasing to God.  Imagine the inner freedom that knowledge gives you and the offense you thus never need to take?  Thus, Moroni's censure did not trigger anger in his heart.  His heart was right with God.

Disagreeing in 2017

A few thoughts about practical 2017 disagreements and showing respect.  We all have hopefully heard the stats about how it's not what you say, but also how you say it.  Online communication makes this an enormously big issue as we have no body language to help us, and can so easily project our own feelings and thoughts onto someone else's words.  One study I read shared surprising data that people are more likely to interpret online comments more negatively than the authors intended, as compared to the same message written on another platform or other medium.  Online can be potentially messy. 

We sometimes have very very poor communication habits which are full of contempt, judgement, and condemnation.  Especially towards people who's names we don't even know.  I suppose we feel safer behind a keyboard and out of view. 

A few ideas

A few ideas on my mind regarding respecting each other through our inevitable disagreements, and not accusing or wrongly condemning each other.

1.  Who likes being grouped with people who do or say things you disagree with??  How fun is it to be labeled as if you held or participated in things you do not?   It's no fun.  Yet our communication does this to each other time and time again.  We label, and group people unfairly sometimes.  One easy step is to stop speaking for others.  Taking care of when using the word "we" unless you know for certain you can and do speak in behalf of whomever "we" is.

2. They say a mark of maturity is the ability to exercise self restraint.  In both word and tone.  But just refraining from condemning or judging others when you speak (or type) still leaves the issue open as to what was in your heart that caused you to even have the condemning thought or idea or tone in the first place.  Ideally what comes out of our mouth stops defiling us, as Christ taught was what defiles a man, but instead is a natural expression of our changed heart.  I believe we should care more about our own hearts, and what's in them, than whatever it is we perceive is in the hearts of others.  As it may just be a projection of our own. 

3. When the scriptures say someone is "slow of speech" I don't think that means they had a speech disorder.  It' was something else. 

4.  We all know our families pretty well, and while yes we may have disagreements with them, sometimes frequently,  sometimes intense, yet at the same time we often will show high loyalty to them, and forgiveness when asked.  Because we know them, understand them and their weaknesses, and yet still love them.  We've seen the good in them.  So another practical idea is we can get to know people better, and as we learn about their life, we understand them, and then we can avoid some of the anger and disputes as we see more of where others are coming from, and the good they posses and the good they intend to do.  We need to get to know each other. 

5.  Sharp or soft?  The only times the scriptures say we are to use sharpness is when reproving by the Holy Ghost.    But even in those cases, the scriptures say to show forth an increase of love.  Disputing sharply just adds wounds to a person who is likely seeking healing, nor more injury.   When we have a broken bone or injury, our natural reaction is to protect, and guard it.  To protect against further injury until the issue is healed.   We are all wounded, from head to to according to the A&C.  Broken bones are sensitive.  Even if covered by layers and layers of a bandage or hardened cast.  So are broken people, even if covered by layers and layers of  hardened mental or emotional walls.

Precept, reason, and persuasion

Precepts are general rules to guide and direct behavior or thought.  Having correct precepts, and agreeing on them is how I believe everyone can begin to come together, and show respect for each other.  The A&C says to use the scriptures and whats found in them to govern our conduct.  Applying precepts to ones self, not others.

Reason.  Sometimes We want to use intellect and ideas to compel the heart.  But in lots and lots of cases that does not and will not work.  Coming together involves reasoning through ideas and concepts, but also the feelings those ideas and concepts provoke, which will be different depending on the person and their past.  We as a culture are sometimes terrible at languaging our feelings in healthy ways, let alone reasoning through them.  Because we tend to be unskilled in solving the impasse of two peoples differing feelings, we unfortunately resort to anger and bitterness.  But if the heart/feelings could come together, the mind would catch up very quickly.

Persuasion.  Can't persuade without love.  Love is very persuasive, but requires longsuffing and sacrifice.  Enduring abuse, returning good for evil.  Until at some point, you break their heart.  And then the truth is evident or can be accepted.

That's it for this phrase from the A&C.  Hope it prompted thought.  So much more could be said.  This is just my first attempt to begin thinking through this phrase fro the A&C.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A&C Series - How do men come unto Christ?

And how do men come unto me? It is by faith, repentance, and baptism, which bring the Holy Ghost to then show you all things you must know.
A&C Pg3

The A&C sets out in plainness how to come unto Christ.

On page 6 of the A&C it says:
"I lead to all truth. I will lead all who come to me to the truth of all things. The fullness is to receive the truth of all things, and this too from me, in power, by my word and in very deed. For I will come to you if you will come unto me."

This is a modern reaffirmation of receiving Christ as Second Comforter.  The promise is there, spoken by Christ again in our day. 

The specific phrase I wanted to talk about from the A&C today was by faith.  That's the first listed item on how to come to Christ. Faith as we hopefully all know implies action.  Action consistent with a correct belief.  Everyone acts consistent with some belief.  But the Book of Mormon says the modern audience the book speaks to has "unbelief".  Which goes beyond just a lack of belief, but having beliefs that are incorrect.  So we need to get correct beliefs, then act on them. 

As to faith.  

Mountains aren't moved by looking at life through eyes of doubt, and surrendering to our confusion and despair. Mountains are moved through faith. They move by looking at our lives through the eyes of faith. Without faith, New Testament says, we cannot please God. Not wishful thinking, or some pop psychology power of positive thinking, but a Christ centered faith that is real, tangible, and has substance to it. The faith view is that He is the one behind our life's challenges. He is the one providing them as an opportunity for us to demonstrate our faith in Him. He is the one that gives us challenges and then will walk by us to see that we succeed. We have to view life and our challenges that way or our faith will not have any fruit. God IS involved. He is NOT distant. He is intimately involved, but we lack the faith to see it because we often do not view our lives or challenges in a spiritual context. We think they are just physical dilemmas. So we have to look through a more correct lens.

Whatever the challenge is in our lives, we can see it as purely a physical or temporal problem, or we can view the thing in a spiritual setting, in the correct light, which is the ongoing battle between faith, and skepticism.   Faith in God to deliver you, or doubt.

The issue is never just physical. It's always about our faith in Christ or our doubt of Him and his involvement. Faith includes seeing your life through eyes of faith. One of the effects of this is it often lifts your mood the minute you begin to demonstrate a smidgen of faith.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A&C Series - Teach your Children to Honor Me

Teach your children to honor me
A&C Pg 11

D&C 68: 25

"And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents."

It's pretty clear it's the parents responsibility to teach their children the Gospel.  Not the state, not the grandparents, not the neighbors, not a Church, not primary teachers or youth group leaders.  While those people may play meaningful and or important roles, it's ultimately the parents responsibility to teach their children the Gospel, specifically Repentance, Faith in Christ, Baptism and Holy Ghost.

When the A&C says to "Teach your children to honor me" I first read it with emphasis on the word "honor".   As opposed to something like dishonor.  I thought, how and what would bring honor to the Lord?  How does one honor him?  How does obeying him play into honoring Him?  How does a parent teach their children to do this?  I'm currently trying to figure this out and do this with my own children.  I think more important than words, or data, is my example.  And I have work to do.     

During a fellowship meeting a week or two ago one of the youth spoke up and read that sentience about teaching children to honor the Lord but put emphasis on the last word, "me".  Which immediately brought into my mind all the contrasting and sometimes competing things or people that children could be taught to honor.  Which are not God.  I was so thankful for how she read the sentience.  It caused my mind to open up.  

Children could be taught to honor:  (directly or indirectly)
A Church or a Religion (a trademark)
A Leader
An Entertainer
A Politician
Cultural beliefs
Cultural doctrine 
"Follow the Prophet"
A Bishop
etc etc etc.

In order to honor Christ, all of us, including our children will need to be able to distinguish inspired moments, and inspired words that originate from God, relayed by mortals, from all other moments of life and things said by well meaning people.  

The best explanation and description I've ever read on this topic is below.  It's about distinguishing who you follow.   Brackets inside the quote are mine.  The example given of President Hinckley was relevant at the time the book was written but any person could be substituted in its place.  

"The Gospel requires us to proceed carefully, to be sure. We are required to find the voice of the Spirit for ourselves. Every Saint must become, in their own right, a prophet or prophetess. Not to lead others, but themselves (Numbers 11:29). For each must choose for him or herself to find and follow the Master’s voice in his or her life. The only sure rock upon which salvation remains to be found is that same rock of revelation which Christ assured Peter was secure to trust. If you follow [Insert leader] President Hinckley solely because he is the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you are following a man. But if you follow President Hinckley because you hear the Master’s voice in his counsel and teaching, then you are following the Lord, and not a man. There is a great difference between the two. One honors the Lord and leads to exaltation. The other misses the mark and makes such followers Telestial (D&C 76: 98-101). This distinction is pivotal to salvation itself. It is not merely rhetorical, but of such substance if you fail to understand it you fail in the test of mortality itself. This is what we signed up for in coming to mortality. We accepted this challenge and expected it. Now it confronts us. So the test is afoot and must be taken with caution and humility."

The Second Comforter Pg 232 

Should Zion come, it wouldn't last more than 1 generation if the children are not taught to honor the Lord.   I personally pray for God's help in fulfilling this parental obligation.  Because I need it.  

Friday, November 24, 2017

A&C Series - Care for the Orphan

Be tender with one another, pursue judgment, bless the oppressed, care for the orphan, and uplift the widow in her need for I have redeemed you from being orphaned and taken you that you are no longer a widowed people. Rejoice in me, and rejoice with your brethren and sisters who are mine also. Be one.
A&C pg 7 

Care for the orphan.  Does this mean take care of kids who's biological parents are not in the picture?  It would certainly include that.   Care for, show compassion for, love, nurture, support.  All the things a child would need.  One such idea would be something like this.  Link.  I know the person sponsoring this fund, it's legit. 

Psalm 10:18 reads: "To judge the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may no more oppress."  Or bring justice to the fatherless, and oppressed.   "Fatherless" has more than one meaning.

What's interesting on this topic is how the word orphaned is used in the above paragraph from the A&C.  The word orphan is used twice.  But it's not in the sense of absent biological parents.  It's in the sense of Christ and God as our father.

One of the verses of scripture promising Christ as Second Comforter is John 14:10.  The King James version reads: "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.".  However almost every other translation renders it something like this: "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you"

The A&C says God has redeemed a people from being orphaned.  Or a people who had no parents.  As we know from the Book of Mormon, we can and must all be born of God, becoming His sons and daughters.

Mosiah 5:7

"And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters."

Mosiah 27:25

"And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters"

When the Lord says to care for the orphan, perhaps we can think not just of biological terms, but also in terms of those who have not yet known Christ or the the Father or become his children.  Those who have not been adopted and redeemed through Jesus Christ and His Gospel.    

To care for the orphan seems like call to invite others to baptism, and being born again.  So they are no longer fatherless.  Seems like  call to invite people to join with a covenant that makes not just an individual, but a "people" redeemed from being orphaned and taken that they are no longer a widowed people.  

This Answer and Covenant has the Spirit of God resonating in it.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A&C Series - Pursue Judgement

"Be tender with one another, pursue judgment, bless the oppressed, care for the orphan, and uplift the widow in her need for I have redeemed you from being orphaned and taken you that you are no longer a widowed people. Rejoice in me, and rejoice with your brethren and sisters who are mine also. Be one." 
A&C Pg 7. 

Pursue Judgement.  As in bring justice to.  Not as in become judgmental, or start judging other people. Perhaps it's more in the spirit of Isaiah 1: 17: Learn to do good; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow."  Or Psalm 10:18 "To judge the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may no more oppress."

Comparing this paragraph from the A&C, Isaiah, and Psalms, I conclude existing scripture and the A&C again  resonate with the same Spirit.  

If we seek justice for, or in other words seek for righteous judgement, we can help the oppressed find relief, and bring justice to the fatherless.  Who are the fatherless?  Are they not those who know not their Father which is in Heaven?  But the Lord has redeemed His people from being orphaned.  What great cause is there to rejoice, and to pursue judgement so others can be brought in.  There is cause to pursue judgement for the widow who suffers, and for all those who know not God.   For God has offered to redeem.   His hand is moving again. 

This thanksgiving my mind is on the prophesied judgments to come upon this land.  For those who were scattered, and driven, and only a remnant remain.  God's righteous judgement will come.  We can repent, and seek to gather those sheep who will, so that a righteous judgement can be pursued. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

A&C Series - Forgive One Another

I descended below it all, and know the sorrows of you all, and have borne the grief of it all and I say to you, Forgive one another. 
A&C pg 7.

The instruction to forgive one another is preceded by the Lord reminding us of who He is and what He has done. He descended below everything any of us will endure. He knows the sorrows of us all, and has born the grief of it all. He is the context within which we are instructed to forgive one another. It's possible alongside Him, because he has already done it. He is "quick to forgive sin". And we are supposed to be like him.

The realization came to my mind the other day that Christ is able to forgive everyone, because He knows how to do it. He has reconciled in his mind and heart even those that killed him. He knows exactly how to forgive. It's not just an act of will power, it's also a function of the knowledge he gained by going through that internal reconciliation as part of His atonement. (Isaiah 53:11)

I believe forgiveness is the key which empowers us to walk away from the spirit of bitterness and anger. If we do not, we end up in a self-imposed prison, locking up our hearts in separation from God and others. The mind can lead the heart, so if the heart isn't quite ready to let go, or forgive, the mind can lead the way and the heart can follow.

In my experience what sometimes holds the heart back from forgiving is the offense and the hurt may never have been acknowledged, or validated or expressed in a healthy way. So the hurt just lingers. Then walls get put up inside, and a person may subtly try to prove how "right" they are about how "wrong" others are. Endlessly seeking to feel understood. It's healing with someone genuinely listens to you, and shows empathy without judging. Love heals. Listening with no agenda in many cases allows the heart to feel validated, and once that happens, letting go is more natural.

If you want to help someone forgive listening to them and understanding how and why they may have felt the way they did can be a great step. It goes awry when we have a hidden agenda, or ignorantly tell someone they shouldn't be feeling what they are feeling. That doesn't help peoples hearts unite, it tends to do the opposite.
But back to the scriptures: Ephesians: 4:30-32 "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you."

The Answer and Covenant has similarities and carries the same spirit as Paul writing to the Ephesians.

In my experience, when you receive from God, you are then able to give of what you have received.

Consider this:
In most cases it is our disrespect for ourselves that impedes coming to Him. We tend to think we aren't good enough. However, because He is quick to forgive sins, it really doesn't matter if you are not good enough. One of the first orders of business when you come into His presence is that He forgives you. He cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance,(D&C 1:31), but He has the capacity and the ability to forgive sin. Therefore although your sins may be as scarlet, He can, He will and He does, make you white as snow (Isa 1:18), no longer accountable for your limitations. Therefore you needn't fear, but you can approach boldly, our Lord (Heb 4:16)

Christ: The Prototype of the Saved Man, 40 Years in Mormonism Lecture 7 Ephraim, Utah

Lets forgive one another. And show some respect for ourselves. We can forgive right here, and right now. God is willing to, and we have been asked to be like Him.

Follow up 12/4/17:

I was pondering on this subject one night after writing this post and the scripture came to mind in the NT where the friends of the disabled guy lower him through the roof to get to where Jesus is and Jesus forgives his sins, and then heals him and he gets up and walks.  The religious leaders present question among themselves about Jesus having power to forgive sins.  They scoffed at Jesus doing such a thing.   

After thinking through that scripture, I wondered about God asking us to forgive each other.  It's a repeated commandment to forgive.  And God doesn't ask things without providing a way to do it.   The question came to my mind:  Does the commandment to forgive others come accompanied with or embedded with an actual power to forgive sins?  It seemed like blasphemy at first, that anyone but God could forgive sin.  Makes sense to me that only Christ can forgive sin because he paid the price for them, thus he is the only one who can forgive them.  And yet.....  he tells us to forgive others.  So, in some small way, do we have an ability, albeit small, to forgive sins?  If we are Children of Christ, would not the power to forgive sins be within us?

Food for thought. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Answer and Covenant (A&C) Series - Start

As part of my own personal study and attempt to live and honor the Lord's words I wanted to do a series of posts centered on the instructions given in the Answer and Covenant (A&C).

These will only be some initial thoughts and discussion about items taken from the A&C.  I will keep them within their context and hopefully discuss them in a meaningful way that can perhaps please God.  If you find yourself reading these, maybe it will prompt thoughts of your own, or additional understanding for your own life.  There is probably a lot more that could be said about each item or phrase I discuss.  But here's to at least starting a discussion, sharing ideas, and speaking openly about the way God has asked us to live.

On a related note, for a style and chaismus breakdown of the A&C, a friend did a complete break down.  It's fascinating.  

Friday, June 23, 2017

Prayer Contrast

Sometimes contrast is worth more than a thousand words.  It can really provide clarity and sharpen the image you are looking at.

In the past 3 months two different people with LDS backgrounds were both asked about prayer. One of them is an Apostle in the LDS church sustained as a prophet seer and revelator. The other was excommunicated from the church by the leaders for apostasy. The first claims authority.  The second claims no authority other than the truth shared. They both answer a similar question about how to improve ones personal prayers.  The answers are very different and each very informative but in markedly different ways.  I'll share both, along with a third example by a prophet from scripture that I find relevant to the other two.  

So here are the three, in random order.  Notice the contrast between the speakers familiarity with God and subsequently the closeness (or lack of) they then advocate and teach others is possible.

See if, based purely on the content of each quote, which you think was said by which. Apostle, apostate, or scriptural prophet, and then see the answers in the comment section.  See if number 2 or 3 would most improve the next prayer you offer.

Number 1:

For I spoke to him as a man speaketh; for I beheld that he was in the form of a man; yet nevertheless, I knew that it was the Spirit of the Lord; and he spake unto me as a man speaketh with another.

Number 2: 

We've received many, many questions about becoming better at praying in general.  Question: "I'm a senior in high school, and I'm having trouble having good prayers, more like conversations with God. Do you have any suggestions, or what do you do?"

I'll start by saying, be modest in your expectations. God is close, and He loves you. And He would love to have a conversation, but remember He is God. And the idea that you're going to--I always worry when someone is speaking to Him in too familiar a way, because it is not easy. Heavenly Father's words, His ideas, are not exactly ours.

And so the idea of having really a conversation where you're chatting with Heavenly Father is probably a little bit of a lofty goal. My own feeling is, I pray as if He's there, as if He is listening. And He is listening. I believe He's always sending messages to me. I really do.

But sometimes there's long silences, for me at least. And so when [Questioner] speaks, you see, of a conversation in her prayers, she's making it sound a little more casual than I think it's possible to be. We're dealing with God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.  And They are so far above us in terms of Their powers that--in fact, I've been with people who chat as if they're chatting when I've heard them pray. And I thought, "You're a little more familiar than I am with that one."

Because I would think that if you can just get the feeling that He is hearing you, and then if, on occasion, answers come back often clearly in your mind--sometimes not--maybe by just reading the scriptures. I think the answer comes that way. But the conversation is not quite like he [pointing to associate] and I together, for instance.

We talk with each other, and it's very personal.  [Associate] and I have had wonderful conversations. But I don't have conversations with Heavenly Father like that, at least I don't. I do a lot of the asking. And then I wait and then I wait. And then answers come, but not in what you'd call a conversational mode. 

Number 3

Question: I know you are used to far more profound questions, but do you have any suggestions on how to make prayer meaningful? I find it hard to pray, given that God knows whats in my head and what I will say, but I have been making an effort to pray more. Any tips?


Talk like you are addressing your most intimate friend and have nothing to hide. Tell Him about your regrets, hopes, frustrations, concerns, fears, and confusion. Before long you will discover that whatever you care about God also cares about. He can give perspective that changes everything. Prayer should not recognize the distance between us and God, but should become the way we close that distance.

End of examples. 

Side note: 
There is a fairly clear pattern of prayer by those who know the Lord.  It's my view that God is not the one requiring continued distance between us and Him and putting his hand up to keep us at a distance.  It is us that keeps God at a distance because of the things we are often taught.  Something Nephi prophesied about: false teachings and corrupt precepts of men, which cause even the humble followers of Christ to err.   

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Healing from contention, jarring, strife and envy

Early saints were dealing with the following issues and received this from the Lord:

D&C 101:6 Behold, I say unto you, there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances.

I would like to avoid that stuff.  I hope to make different mistakes.  So I ask myself how do any of us be different that what we read about above?  Below are a few thoughts on that topic.  It's not perfect and I struggled to convey it in as clear a way as I would have liked, but it's my attempt to share things learned from my direct experience.  Both what has been successful, and also what was not.  

We can't think ourselves above any defect we see in others.  That just doesn't work.  Contention, strife, jarring, envy, these are not only "other Saint's" issues in the past.  They are ours too.  I think we start by simply being accountable.  No need to look outside yourself and immediate family for a relatively quick internal measurement of how you stand in this regard.  As well as how you stand with things like covetous desires.  Family relationships have a way of bringing these things to the surface which other situations may not.  If we lack awareness of our own defects, we have many mirrors around us every day that we are ignoring.  One of those is family.

I believe the problem is not just our external behavior.  Walking away from contention does not mean you don't still have it churning inside you, waiting for some other circumstance to spew out.  Avoiding it may just be your way of sidestepping something inside of you which you don't know how to handle.  So it's lack of understanding and experience that causes us to sometimes do or say dumb things.

Although walking away can often be a very good idea, and I believe it preferable to contenting with anger, Christ's teachings go beyond the surface behavior.  They go to the root and core of the person.  There are times when walking away won't be an option, and so I'm inclined to pursue a new, lasting, and inner perspective based on Christ's teachings.

 In Matthew 7:5 Christ says to remove the beam from our own eye first when noticing flaws and weaknesses of others.  This suggests our perspectives are impaired and blocked.  That seems like by far the best place to start.  Our own eye.  

If you (and I) find ourselves welling up with anger and contention or strife or envy over other’s beliefs or Gospel views I believe it's a symptom of something in your and my heart, not something "out there" or "in them".  What we feel, is our responsibility.  The internal reaction can be informational if we give it a chance to inform us.

Other people are in some ways a good mirror of ourselves.  What we react to in others is often a reflection of something or some pattern we ourselves posses. What we don't like in them, is sometimes really just a part of ourselves we don't like.  Romans 2:1 (NIV) You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.

Knowing this is good news.  Why? Because this means we have a large supply of reflections to help identify what we lack, or beams we can take a look at.
You've maybe heard the cultural phase "other people can't make you feel a certain way".  I disagree.  They very much can.  In a sense.  Others can say or do things that trigger certain feelings in a person.  But I believe it's more like  a TV remote.  Or a bruise.  Others may "push your buttons" or hit sensitive areas but the button and the bruise belong to you.  It's your's.  If the source of the agitation is within us, then looking outward or trying to get other people to change to accommodate our bruise is futile.  That isn’t a lasting solution.

So what do we do?  Do we bury all our reactions?  Just walk away?  Suppress it?  Burying anger is not a seed we want to plant.  Who knows what noxious weeds or fruit that seed will sprout.  So what about venting it out?  Expressing the hurt or disappointment, or frustration can be therapeutic.  But we often do this in immature ways, that end up hurting others.  Another option is to gain understanding.  New understanding can quickly dissipate strong feelings.  Like when you wake from a stressful dream, realizing it wasn't what you thought it was.  The feelings change quickly with the right information. So better understanding is key.  We don’t understand like God does.

We can share our deepest feelings, concerns, frustrations, and hopes with God.  Prayer, journaling, and meditation work.  These are helpful tools.  I grew up thinking it was taboo to share these kinds of things with God in prayer.  I was taught prayer was more formal than informal and that I was to somehow hide how I really felt in favor of trite and cliche phrases that in no way matched what I was feeling.  I no longer think that is the best way to communicate with God.  Expressing the heart to God is one of the purposes of prayer.  Once the feelings have past, or been expressed, and we realize God does understand us, and has compassion for us, often new light will emerge that wasn't visible before.  Burying or suppressing the feelings in my experience doesn't work.  They just multiply and come out later anyway.

We all need healing.  We all experienced and experience injuries as part of the fall.  And so we are all going to defend and protect our respective injuries and bruises with varying degrees of self justified behaviors in ways that fit our past.  Contention, jarring and strife involve emotion, feelings and the heart.  Those things suggest the inner place we are coming from (heart) is not a place of contentment, but is instead sometimes a place of intense fear, hurt, or judgement.  I believe our individual hearts MUST get out of that place in order to have lasting unity and peace with others.  Feeling sorry for ourselves, or staying in a negative place because we feel justified in our anger truly does not work.  

So how do we heal from these things?  How do we get our hearts into the right place? Where is the education found on how to do this?  Because it's not taught in school, and usually not at church either.  I'm going to go to the scriptures.  Christ said to love our enemies, and those who despitefully use and persecute.  Enemies have a unique ability to reveal a lot about ourselves and our hearts.  Christ's teachings ask us to treat others in ways that seem impossible at times or go directly against how we feel in the moment.  But Christ doesn't ask us to do something without providing a way to do it.  We often just need to drop our pride, and humbly take steps in faith.

The natural man is an enemy to God, and God clearly loves His enemies and those who despitefully use and persecute Him.  Hence he asks us to do the same.  This can be a good first step of confidence that God's love is available to any of us despite our fallen condition.  We need to start on the right foot.  We need to receive from God and then act in faith.  God's love heals. God IS love. Forgiveness heals. God is willing to forgive and extend mercy and grace.  When we receive these things from God we can do likewise towards others.  No reason it can't start small and grow.  Most things begin that way.  The result of receiving from God is to see self and others in a better (more correct) light.  And as mentioned above, new and better information can quickly change things.  

When we aren't insecure about our own standing with God, or needing to protect fragile parts of our beliefs and hearts there is little reason for covetous desires, jarring and contention and strife.  It just doesn't come up.  In the same way a healed broken arm doesn't need to be guarded from being hit like it did when it was broken.  We often act as though we are broken, defending at every turn.  And in truth we are all broken to some degree.  But.... situations, topics or events that at one point may have caused anger and frustration or contention, or to view people as enemies, can all change when the person accepts Christ's teachings, heals, and starts returning good for evil.  This is very difficult to do when we are full of scars and wounds, and carry them all over our countenance like a badge of honor.  So we need to be serious about coming to Christ. 

A more correct perspectives can quickly transform how you feel.  Knowledge does this.  We've all been captivated by a movie or book where the main character goes through sometimes many years with faulty information.  The audience knows the truth, but the character does not, and the audience waits in anticipation of the character finally realizing the truth and then correcting his actions.  Once this happens, it often changes everything.  I believe that is how life is.  We all have faulty information, and judge too quickly, and thus get tossed to and fro and act wrongly towards others.  This is another reason I really like the quote by Joseph Smith that a man is saved no faster than he gains knowledge.  I have never been able to access knowledge when my heart has a need to feel right about how wrong others are.  But I HAVE found hidden knowledge when I've dealt with strong feelings in a healthy way, and then pressed on to gain the information intended by the feelings I had, and the situation God offered me.

Notice whenever:
You feel a need to be right about how wrong someone else is.  
For me I've found a change of perspective, can literally change everything.  One example is I found compassion and understanding towards my parents greatly increased after having kids of my own.  Feelings I had towards parents in younger years gives way to seeing why the parent did or behaved in the way they did.  Their actions are now understandable, even respectable when I understand the circumstances I did not understand in the past.  Charity sprouts as we relate to and see how very much we all have in common and how much all of us are simply trying to do the best we can with what we know.  I have more charity towards my parents just from having my own kids.  Forgiveness seems to come naturally when perspective becomes more accurate.  Meekness and longsuffering actually seem possible.  Then the heart doesn't have to go to a painful place that yields poor fruit because there is no fear, but instead understanding, forgiveness, and compassion.    

A gifted teacher once told me:
Pride is where the ego goes when it doesn't know how to solve an emotional equation
What's an emotional equation?  It's when feelings don't add up.  It's the inability to solve or reconcile feelings inside your self.  That is when the ego reacts from pride because it doesn't know what else to do.  The prideful reaction is almost never a good one, it usually hurts ourselves and others.  We can all be terribly immature with our feelings.  It's not just about head knowledge, it's humility and maturity in knowing how to handle the feelings brought on by conflicting views, and tension, especially when stakes are high.

Here is what I've seen that works.  Feelings carry information, but it's often NOT the message we think.  Feeling anger does not always mean that the other person your mad at is an idiot.  That's not why our bodies produce that feeling.  The anger is YOUR issue and has a message for you about something in your heart.  It may have little, or nothing to do with the person who you think is to blame for your anger.  The anger does indicate something though, so it should be acknowledged, and understood. 

God can and does provide new perspective when we are ready to hear Him.  It involves identifying where the root of the problem was (internal).  It boils down to humility before God.  Asking for and accepting God's grace.  Accepting God's love.  Being forgiven.   Expressing the honest and most inner thoughts and feelings and then asking our Father in Heaven for healing.  New perspectives then come through prayer and communicating to God.  More correct perspectives gained through forgiving and offering charity to others WILL heal old scars.  All which improves emotional maturity.

The event or topic which at one point triggers hurt or anger, and leads to contention doesn't have to continue to do that.  Our motivations for what we say and do towards others can drastically improve.  The same thing, event, or topic can give rise to something entirely different inside you if your heart can get to the right place.  Its liberating.  What once pissed you off, can elicit entirely different feelings when your perspective is corrected.  An ongoing processes for me but I've seen it work time and time again. I guess it could be summed up by simply taking Christ's teachings seriously.  They do lead to God.  

A good portion of repentance in my view is a more correct perspective.  The side effects from a change of perspective towards light and truth can be incredibly healing and bring peace and unity as a byproduct.  It purifies our motives.  It comes down to sincere repentance, God's love, and our own humility to actually do and receive from God that I believe, and have seen, offer a path to hearts knit in unity.   

Monday, May 29, 2017

Impatience and Deception

Some of this may sound obvious or like common sense.  But I still think it's worth while.

Right I'm in a phase of life with young and thus very impatient children.  Their impatience is annoying, especially when they can do it themselves, or I'm trying to give them what they ask, but sometimes it takes a few minutes to prepare their food, find a clean sippy cup for their juice, or organize the necessary things to go on a walk or whatever it is they are wanting.... but they want it now.  And whine and beg and demand.

Sometimes the 2 year old will want something that I know will harm her.  Like the knife in kitchen, or to play with the mixer while it's being used.  I tell her no, not because she can't ever play with it or learn about it, but given her age and understanding, it will turn to her own harm.  She lacks the self control for the knife, and lacks the understanding of the mixer to not injure herself. They put up a stink for a second when I say no, but they get over it.
In my own quest for answers to prayer from God I'm often met with a response dealing with patience.  I imagine I am no different from God's perspective than my own kids are to mine.  I have no intention of never letting my kids handle a sharp knife, use matches, or use the kitchen mixer.  The answer is almost always yes, but just not right now.  Sometimes, if the situation is safe, I will give them whatever it is they are demanding..... knowing full well what will happen.  But it's so that they learn. I always try and warn them first before doing this.  Truly the life lessons built into parenting and having a family are in so many of our faces every single day, I hope the important ones are not lost on me.

I was talking with a friend on the phone today and the topic of patience with regard to the things of God and scripture came up.  After some self inventory I concluded that I often act very impatiently.  The realization caused my prayers to turn quickly from impatient prayers to apologies. As I look back, my impatience led to actions, thoughts, or even beliefs that didn't work.  But it's hard.  Our inner impulses and temptations and feelings don't always lend themselves to being patient.  Least mine don't.  Some impatient temptations are almost predictable and I see them all over the place.  Such as: "God doesn't care".  or "What's the use".  "This is too hard".  "It's not working". "Works for others but not me".  Or there's just anger and frustration.  To name just a few.

But at the end of the day, impatience seems a bit like distrust of God's timing or ways.  

After the phone call with my friend today the thoughts stayed with me and kept expanding.  It dawned on me that deception and impatience go hand in hand.  If one is unwilling to wait, or expend the needed effort and time, the impatience urges us to think, do, or believe things which are based on incomplete, inadequate, or straight up lies.  They appear to off a shortcut or some easier faster alternative method to get what we want.  In my experience, that is NOT the path to take.  It's ruinous.  The impatience reveals what's in our heart.   (or what's not there, as the case may be).  And according to scripture, we all need a change of heart.  The right thing at the wrong time, often ends up wrong.

One of my 4yr old's favorite movies is The Little Mermaid.  In one scene after Ariel's father destroyed her collection of human objects, she's off by herself crying.  The villain of the movie Ursula has two shady side kick eels who choose that sad and frustrated and opportune moment to visit Ariel.  They try and persuade her to visit the Sea Witch with whom she ends up making a really bad deal in order to get what she wants.  Ariel's father had the ability to grant her want she wanted all along, but she was young and impatient and as her crab friend tries to help her understand "is being reckless and irresponsible".  And her father wasn't really listening or hearing her.  Which was a separate problem.  But despite her friends, and her father, she gets sucked into a bad deal with someone who does not have her best interest at heart.  Ursula asks for a very heavy and deceptive deal, and in the heat of the moment, capitalizes on Ariel's impulses. 

I have to say how thankful I am for kids, and for the life lessons they place in front of my face every day.  With their own behavior or re-watching movies that have timeless themes in them.

If I look at the actions of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden there is a clear patience/impatience lesson.  God said not to certain fruit, and also said that He would return and give them further instructions.  But temptation came, fruit was eaten, and we know the rest of the story.  The fruit was out of season when they ate it.  Had they waited.... things would have been different.  God provided a way to remedy all that happened but the lesson is pretty obvious.  The right fruit out of season isn't good.  Very few trees produce mature fruit the first year.

I conclude one of the ways to avoid deception, is to patiently wait upon the Lord.  Do we trust God's hand will ultimately be revealed, and promises kept, to those faithful to Him?  I can clearly identify that such is the case from scripture.  Will that which is of God and that which is not come into focus if we are patient and humble?  Can God cure our blindness? And fill us with Joy?  Or is he just going to trick you?  And leave you unhappy and disappointed?

I believe our job is to do as God asks, however humble, or seemingly small, and wait for Him.  Despite the impulses to whine, complain, storm off in another direction, or become disillusioned and doubt filled.  Or push the agenda on our own timing.  Following God's plan, according to scripture, always includes patience.  Even for Christ Himself.

There is a scripture that used to make me sort of groan, but which has grown on me.  Christ is speaking about the last days and events preceding the Second Coming.  He prophecies of things that will happen.  And then this phrase: In your patience possess ye your souls. (Luke 21:19)

A similar phrase is found in D&C 101 38: “And seek the face of the Lord always, that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life.”

Patience, humility, sacrifice.  I'm persuaded that these easily dismiss-able words are dusty old keys that open the right doors at the right time.  I'm also persuaded that these help avoid deception.  In patience we posses our souls.  The humble will be lifted up and led by the hand.  And sacrifice is the means to obtain faith.

I believe God's hand is moving as the scriptures prophesied.  I see the opposition and the mess that attend anything God does.  I hope for the patience and humility to stay behind the One who knows the way, and the One who neither casts a shadow to the left or to the right.  He who's sacrifice will cause all of us to bow in humble acknowledgement of the grace and mercy and love of God.  I hope to join with others who patiently seek God, Zion, and to find true lasting peace.         

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Doctrine of Christ and Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost (part 4)

Christ's doctrine includes receiving the Holy Ghost, not just a temporary influence, but the reception of the Holy Ghost.  A Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost.

3 Nephi 11: 35
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.

D&C 33: 10-12
Yea, open your mouths and they shall be filled, saying: Repent, repent, and prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; Yea, repent and be baptized, every one of you, for a remission of your sins; yea, be baptized even by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost. Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel;

D&C 39: 5-6
And verily, verily, I say unto you, he that receiveth my gospel receiveth me; and he that receiveth not my gospel receiveth not me. And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom.

2 Nephi 31: 14, 17-18

But, behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me.

Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

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.

Note the words that begin that last paragraph quoted: "And then".  Meaning after the aforementioned, including the Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost.  "then ye are in this straight and narrow path".

As a side note, as mentioned last post on baptism, you can be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost and never be a member of an earthly church organization. The two concepts can be separate from organized religion, although the potential separation is not taught or really entertained in LDS settings.

Commenting on John 3:5 Joseph Smith remarked, "You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half-that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.314

Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles during Oct 2010 conference taught that the confirmation ordinance in the LDS church is not a passive pronouncement, or automatic bestowal of the Holy Ghost.  Here are Elder Bednar's words from his talk "Receive the Holy Ghost" Oct 2010. Underlining and italics are mine. 

The ordinance of confirming a new member of the Church and bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost is both simple and profound. Worthy Melchizedek Priesthood holders place their hands upon the head of an individual and call him or her by name. Then, by the authority of the holy priesthood and in the name of the Savior, the individual is confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and this important phrase is uttered: “Receive the Holy Ghost.”

The simplicity of this ordinance may cause us to overlook its significance. These four words—“Receive the Holy Ghost”—are not a passive pronouncement; rather, they constitute a priesthood injunction—an authoritative admonition to act and not simply to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:26). The Holy Ghost does not become operative in our lives merely because hands are placed upon our heads and those four important words are spoken. As we receive this ordinance, each of us accepts a sacred and ongoing responsibility to desire, to seek, to work, and to so live that we indeed “receive the Holy Ghost” and its attendant spiritual gifts..

This may explain why not many members report experiencing the baptism of fire, or are unsure if it has happened to them.  If people think it's automatic, they are not likely to go seeking after it.  Also if the presumption is that it's automatic, they may presume receiving the Holy Ghost is unremarkable if nothing remarkable happened during their confirmation.  The LDS confirmation per Elder Bednar is an admonition.  It's not an a guarantee.  He says this ordinance as administered by the Church requires action, not just someone's hands laid upon your head.

There's a 5 part series on the Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost that's worth reading.  Link here. Series link here.  And a related and important series on the laying on of hands here and here.  You may have to scroll to find the first post in the series, but I believe all those should be read and studied.  I have done so many times and can attest to the truth spoken there on the subject.

I thought I'd write about some other ideas, pose some questions, and then share my testimony at the end as part of finishing up this series of posts on the Doctrine of Christ that has been part of my prep for a class in Church I'm scheduled to teach.  Much of what has been in these posts won't be shared at church, but instead have been part of my own search and personal experience. 

3 Nephi 11: 37-38: And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things. And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

I've always wondered why in the statement quoted above Christ repeats the words but switches up the order of baptism and becoming as a little child.  Why do that?  Are there two baptisms? Two types of becoming as a little child?  Do you become as a little child all over again?  Is receiving "these things" different from "inheriting the kingdom of God"?  What are "these things" that Christ says you can't receive without living his doctrine?  What's the Kingdom of God?  Is one prep for the other?

When Jesus was talking with Nicodemus similar phrasing occurs connecting rebirth and "the kingdom of God".

John 3:3-5 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 

Again in Mosiah 27:25-26.  Another connection between spiritual rebirth and the kingdom of God.

And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

Many believe the current LDS church IS the kingdom of God. The Official Guide to the Scriptures says:  The kingdom of God on earth is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (D&C 65).  (Full link).  Since the name and spelling/punctuation of the Church organization has changed various times over the years that is why I began this paragraph by saying "current" LDS church. 
D&C 65 has little backing for the statement and doesn't contain the word "church" or even a reference to a church let alone identify the current LDS corporate entity as the Kingdom of God.  The guide to the scriptures goes on to also say this, but cites no source.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God on the earth, but it is at present limited to an ecclesiastical kingdom. During the Millennium, the kingdom of God will be both political and ecclesiastical.

The guide to the scriptures is sort of viewed as an authority of it's own. It's not scripture, but since it's published in scripture it piggybacks as if held the same status and authority as scripture.  In fact the official LDS website has the below pictured fine print on the guide to the scriptures page.  So I guess the church does consider the guide actual "Official Scripture".  Link here to see the fine print yourself.

The best research I can find shows Bruce R McConkie as one of the main contributors to The Guide to the Scriptures.  In any event, that is what "the guide" says. And what most accept as true about the definition of the "Kingdom of God".  Hundreds of years of Church leaders have and continue to be raised with the unquestioned belief/assumption that the Kingdom of God and the Church are synonyms.  So it's easy to see how and why the idea is so common and persistent and most people innocently just accept it since that is how they were raised.  But not everything we are raised with is correct.

Here's another point of view, from the Joseph Smith Papers Project:

April 1844: “There is a distinction between the Church of God and kingdom of God [or Council of Fifty]. The laws of the kingdom are not designed to effect our salvation hereafter. It is an entire, distinct and separate government. The church is a spiritual matter and a spiritual kingdom; but the kingdom which Daniel saw was not a spiritual kingdom, but was designed to be got up for the safety and salvation of the saints by protecting them in their religious rights and worship.

Council of Fifty, Minutes, Apr. 18, 1844, in JSP,

The Church and the Kingdom of God are distinct and separate according to Joseph.  A very thought provoking topic.  The sources the Church uses as evidence for them being the same simply do not support the claim.  D&C 65 is one.  But moving on.

Moses 6: 60 For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified; 

Some say this could be three baptisms being referenced.  Water, Spirit, and Blood.  All three present at physical birth, and all three also referencing a form of rebirth or baptism.

The words "Born Again" I think inspire more meaning than can be put into words.  We know what birth is.  The baby may not know what it is as it's happening but with time the individual will grow and have words for the event.  The analogy is one Christ himself used.  Of all the things that Christ could have said about following Him, and how to gain entrance into the Kingdom of God he chose the concept of birth, something every single one of us has experienced.  No one got to earth without experiencing birth.  According to the verse quoted above in Alma, no one will enter the kingdom of God without rebirth and becoming a new creature.  The course of the Lord is one Eternal Round.  We receive from God not by whimsy, or randomness, but by obedience, see D&C 130:19-21.

I believe Alma, and think he is speaking the truth.  I don't think rebirth is something you can force, or earn with your own merit.  Nephi says during his discourse on the Doctrine of Christ: "Relying wholly upon the merits of Him who is mighty to save" 2 Nephi 31:19.  The words "yield" "surrender" "grace" "submission to God" "Mercy" "Meekness" "Humility" "repentant" come to my mind.

On that note I'll end by referencing something any temple attending Latter-Day-Saint would find familiar.  To anyone who's ever watched Cops on TV, it's common knowledge that the universal sign of surrender and yielding is to raise ones hands above their head.  The universal gesture is not hidden.  In fact is extremely commonplace.  Raising your hands shows you are not hiding anything, and it also exposes your vital organs.  It puts you in a humble, vulnerable position of submission.  It's a simple symbol with profound meaning in the context of God and an individual.  As one "yields to the enticing of the holy spirit" (Mosiah 3:19) and surrenders their pride, false beliefs, sin, and everything else on the alter, one is drawn to reach up to God.  When humble, contrite, broken hearted and aware of their vulnerable awful situation this upward reach is almost natural.  We all deep down yearn for God.    

There's another place this symbol occurs that everyone has seen, but most do not make any meaningful connection due to it's commonality.  Hidden in plain sight.  I saw it today.  I see it every day of my life.  Thanks to my 2 year old, this symbol is forever ingrained in my mind and heart.  She will come up to me, raise her hands above her head, reach up to me, look at my face, and..... well.... we all know what that means.  She wants to be picked up.

What a beautiful symbol.  Here we have everyday common examples in everything from law enforcement to a little child who wants to be raised up and held.  We too can reach up to God, with surrender, meekness, humility, and trust, as a little child, and be raised up by His light, love, intelligence, and desire to redeem us.  This is my testimony.  This Doctrine of Christ I've been writing about found in the Book of Mormon is true, I know it by my own direct experience independent of anyone else.  It weaves together profound yet simple ideas about Christ's Gospel, and brings you into contact with Him.  The Doctrine is true.  It came from God.