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.