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.