Saturday, April 25, 2015 0 comments

When they believe, then they shall believe!

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I ran across an interesting verse as Nephi prophesies of the Jews and their spiritual progress.  There was something a little funny about it.  See if you can pick it out.

And after they [the Jews] have been scattered, and the Lord God hath scourged them by other nations for the space of many generations, yea, even down from generation to generation until they shall be persuaded to believe in Christ, the Son of God, and the atonement, which is infinite for all mankind—and when that day shall come that they shall believe in Christ, and worship the Father in his name, with pure hearts and clean hands, and look not forward any more for another Messiah, then, at that time, the day will come that it must needs be expedient that they should believe these things. (2 Nephi 25:16)

I found it rather funny that Nephi essentially says, “When the Jews believe in Christ…[insert list of things they’ll do manifesting their conversion]… then they shall believe.”

When they believe, then they’ll believe.

Now, why would he say something odd like that?

I get the sense that he had to think about whether more would happen once the Jews believed in Christ, but eventually he realized that all the stuff the Lord brought upon the Jews was meant to persuade them to believe in Christ.  Once that is accomplished, YAAAAAYYY!  The celebration and the real progress can begin.

Now, while I’m not aware of Jews in my family tree at this second, I can still apply this to myself.  This underlines for me how important it is to Jesus Christ that I believe in Him.  My belief in Christ gives me access to the cleansing and enabling power of the Atonement.  It’s when the rubber can really hit the road.    

So am I going to be quick or slow to believe in Christ?  Can I make my belief more than an intellectual assent and incorporate it into how I deal with the more granular concerns of life?   And will I be willing to trust Him in every new challenge that comes?  These are questions we must answer with our choices every day of our lives.

Today let’s try to look at our challenges as opportunities to choose to believe in Christ.  Because I have a lot to write today, I choose to believe that Christ can help me stay focused and give me good things to say when I exhaust my own ideas.  I choose to believe that Christ can help me not be overcome with feelings of overwhelm and perfectionism.

How will you choose to show your belief in Christ today?
Thursday, April 23, 2015 0 comments

Hard-hearted yet keeping the Law of Moses


Behold, it is expedient that much should be done among this people, because of the hardness of their hearts, and the deafness of their ears, and the blindness of their minds, and the stiffness of their necks; nevertheless, God is exceedingly merciful unto them, and has not as yet swept them off from the face of the land.
And there are many among us who have many revelations, for they are not all stiffnecked. And as many as are not stiffnecked and have faith, have communion with the Holy Spirit, which maketh manifest unto the children of men, according to their faith.
And now, behold, two hundred years had passed away, and the people of Nephi had waxed strong in the land. They observed to keep the law of Moses and the sabbath day holy unto the Lord. And they profaned not; neither did they blaspheme. And the laws of the land were exceedingly strict. (Jarom 1:3-5)
These verses strike me as rather peculiar.  Jarom tells us how hard-hearted and stiff-necked his people are, and how much has to be done among them, yet two verses later he also says that they observed the Law of Moses, kept the Sabbath, and avoided profanity and blasphemy, and kept strict civil laws. 

Those conditions seem almost diametrically opposed to each other.

It seems that the people must have felt that keeping the laws was enough and did not allow the performance of their duty to change their hearts. 

Sometimes when you are so focused on keeping the commandments, you can develop a belief that everything is fine with you and you have no more improvement to make, when really there is a lot of refinement to do in our souls which can only be brought out through interpersonal relationships.

Sometimes it happens that I’ll be in the middle of doing something relating to one of my callings or keeping a commandment and I realize that I’m doing it with a spirit of apathy or impatience and annoyance.   When I notice that, I have to take a little time and ponder what my obedience means if done in the wrong spirit.  (Hint: It means the same as if I had been disobedient.)  But it is enough to at least give me the desire to do it in the right spirit.  And prayer is a good beginning for inviting a attitude adjustment.   I want to have the right spirit in my obedience.  I want to be joyful when I obey.  I want to find meaning in it and feel the Lord’s pleasure in it.

What do you do when you find yourself stuck in apathy or annoyance while obeying commandments?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015 2 comments

KJV versus JST: Christ foreknown and predestinated



KJV Romans 8:29-30
JST Romans 8:29-30
29 For whom he did foreknow,
he also did predestinate
to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
29  For him whom he did foreknow,
he also did predestinate
to be conformed to his own image,
that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called:
and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
30  Moreover, him whom he did predestinate,
him he also called;
and him whom he called, him he also sanctified;
and him whom he sanctified, him he also glorified.

This is kind of tricky to get the mind around, but I eventually settled on three major differences from the JST.

Difference #1 – Pronouns were changed in the JST, and instead of giving a sense that some group of people are predestinated, we are told that one man was foreknown, predestinated, called, sanctified, and glorified.  It is obvious this is Christ.

Difference #2 – Instead of a group being justified, one man is sanctified.  This fits with a reference to Christ, since Christ would not need to be justified, having never sinned.  If one never sins and does holy works, one is sanctified, or becomes holy.

Difference #3 – If verse 29 were not changed, it would make it seem like there was another man to come after Christ who was to look like Christ and be the firstborn.  That doesn’t make sense.  There’s only one Christ.
Friday, April 17, 2015 2 comments

All the ways the Lord saved Abraham from being sacrificed


15 And as they lifted up their hands upon me [Abraham], that they might offer me up and take away my life, behold, I lifted up my voice unto the Lord my God, and the Lord hearkened and heard, and he filled me with the vision of the Almighty, and the angel of his presence stood by me, and immediately unloosed my bands;
16 And his voice was unto me: Abraham, Abraham, behold, my name is Jehovah, and I have heard thee, and have come down to deliver thee, and to take thee away from thy father’s house, and from all thy kinsfolk, into a strange land which thou knowest not of;
17 And this because they have turned their hearts away from me, to worship the god of Elkenah, and the god of Libnah, and the god of Mahmackrah, and the god of Korash, and the god of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; therefore I have come down to visit them, and to destroy him who hath lifted up his hand against thee, Abraham, my son, to take away thy life.
18 Behold, I will lead thee by my hand, and I will take thee, to put upon thee my name, even the Priesthood of thy father, and my power shall be over thee.
19 As it was with Noah so shall it be with thee; but through thy ministry my name shall be known in the earth forever, for I am thy God.
20 Behold, Potiphar’s Hill was in the land of Ur, of Chaldea. And the Lord broke down the altar of Elkenah, and of the gods of the land, and utterly destroyed them, and smote the priest that he died; and there was great mourning in Chaldea, and also in the court of Pharaoh; which Pharaoh signifies king by royal blood.  (Abraham 1:15-20)

In these verses we can see about six different ways the Lord saved Abraham when he was about to be sacrificed.  Some of them were related to his precarious position and others were of a type that continued longer.

1) His bands were loosed so he could move freely.

2) He was told the Lord would destroy “him who hath lifted up his hand against thee.”    The Lord smote the murderous priest who was trying to kill Abraham, to confirm the wrongness of human sacrifice and His protection of Abraham.  This saved him from being the subject of a continued manhunt once he was saved from that particular prospect of becoming a human sacrifice.

3) The Lord threw down the altars of all the false gods to show His displeasure with their human sacrifices and discourage them from such usage in the future.

4) He was told he would be taken by the Lord away from his father’s house, since they were obviously wicked and consenting to his death.  This would take him from their evil influence.

5) He was told the Lord would lead him by the hand, which would be really reassuring when Abraham didn’t know what would happen.  (Think of a blind person led by the hand or elbow, following gentle tugs.)

6) He was told the Lord would take him and put upon him “my name, even the Priesthood,” which would increase his spiritual safety, since he would have to be worthy and spiritually prepared for that.

So many different ways of saving!  Some of them were immediate, some were more long-term and ongoing.  This makes me wonder if we can see in our lives all the different ways the Lord is saving us.

Today let’s try to discern those different ways the Lord’s salvation is in our lives.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015 2 comments

David delivers Saul’s sons to the Gibeonites


Then there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David inquired of the Lord. And the Lord answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites.
And the king called the Gibeonites, and said unto them; (now the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel, but of the remnant of the Amorites; and the children of Israel had sworn unto them: and Saul sought to slay them in his zeal to the children of Israel and Judah.)
Wherefore David said unto the Gibeonites, What shall I do for you? and wherewith shall I make the atonement, that ye may bless the inheritance of the Lord?
And the Gibeonites said unto him, We will have no silver nor gold of Saul, nor of his house; neither for us shalt thou kill any man in Israel. And he said, What ye shall say, that will I do for you.
And they answered the king, The man that consumed us, and that devised against us that we should be destroyed from remaining in any of the coasts of Israel,
Let seven men of his sons be delivered unto us, and we will hang them up unto the Lord in Gibeah of Saul, whom the Lord did choose. And the king said, I will give them. (2 Sam. 21:1-6)

This is a rather odd story. 

If you remember, the Gibeonites were people who tricked Joshua into making a league with them when the Israelites were entering the land.  They were allowed to stay and became servants to the Israelites.

Evidently one of the perfidious things Saul had done was he had broken that league and killed Gibeonites and the Lord wasn’t happy about it and wanted to use the famine to bring that to remembrance so that David would make it right.

At David’s question of how to make it right, the Gibeonites asked that seven of Saul’s sons be given them to be hung up unto the Lord in Gibeah.  And David consented to this.

Just who was executed is a little in doubt because in v7 it says Mephibosheth was not delivered to them, but in the very next verse it says he was.  Also, v8 says five sons of Michal were delivered over, but earlier in 2 Samuel it is said that Michal never had children.  (It could have just referred to children by her other husband that Saul gave her to, and before David got her back again.)

Now, in principle, this story is weird because the whole of Israel is plagued for the sins of one man and then Saul’s sons (who we presume are innocent) are put to death as restitution for those sins.

However, if we see this story as yet another type of Christ’s sacrifice in the scriptures, we can gain instruction from it.  The whole nation of Israel is plagued by the sin of Saul, corresponding to how the whole world is plagued by the sin of Adam and the fall, and we all partake in it.  To make it right, the king’s sons are executed, even though they are innocent, thereby prefiguring how Christ, an innocent man, gave Himself to atone so that we could escape the punishment.
Monday, April 13, 2015 0 comments

The flow of the parables and the parable of the householder


 One of the things about parables as a teaching device is that they don’t usually match doctrine in every respect.  Recently while reading Matthew 13, which contains a number of Christ’s parables, I realized that those parables build on each other in order to communicate truths more accurately to make up the deficiencies of earlier parables.

The parable of the sower does a great job of communicating the obstacles faced by a person’s heart in trying to receive and endure in the Word, and it conveys very well how the Word can cause people to grow and bring forth fruit with amazing abundance.  But it doesn’t well communicate the penalty for those who don’t grow.  So, the parable of the wheat and the tares is needed.

Neither the parable of the sower or the parable of the wheat and tares adequately conveys the scale of the growth of the Lord’s kingdom like it does the growth of individuals, so the parable of the mustard seed is needed.  It shows how startlingly the kingdom becomes “the greatest of herbs,” even showing how angels themselves (represented as birds) are attracted to it and prefer to dwell in the branches of it.

And none of what goes before conveys the effect the church has on the surrounding world, leavening it and raising the whole, so the parable of the leaven is needed.

And then the parables of the man finding the treasure in the field and the merchant seeking goodly pearls convey truths about how people come into the kingdom of God, some stumbling upon it by accident, and some seeking deliberately until they find it.

But this would be incomplete without a parable of the net gathering of every kind, since that shows how the church tries to draw everyone into it and tries to be as inclusive as possible, keeping in mind that someday there will still be the final judgment when the evil will be cast out and the righteous saved.  (In essence, just because we’re drawn into the net doesn’t mean we are good.  We need conversion if we are to be saved ultimately.)

Finally, the Savior ends with a parable of the householder, one we don’t give much attention to, but which can be encouraging as we strive to be disciples of Christ over a lifetime:

51 Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord.
52 Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old. (Matthew 13:51-52)

The helpfulness of this parable is not immediately obvious, so it will help to ask questions about it and examine how the meaning might be different if alternate words were used.

Every scribe – If it said “every farmer,” we’d get a different idea of what this could mean. Because Jesus said “scribe” though, we see He is referring to people in the kingdom of God who are intent on studying the scriptures and learning their meaning and, of course, practicing what they learn.  These aren’t the apostate scribes of Judiasm of Christ’s time; these are converted individuals.

which is instructed – If it said “which is teaching,” we would get a totally different idea.  But keeping the focus on being instructed shows us that as part of the kingdom, we are to be taught and we are to learn.  I believe we are to infer that the instruction comes by the Spirit, and it can continue throughout life.  Also, the footnote for this says “which has become a disciple in,” so we might read the whole as “every scribe which has become a disciple in the kingdom of God…”

like unto a man which is an householder – If the man were a merchant he might be trading, or might be in a place of business instead of at home.  Talking about a householder conveys the idea that the man is at home and feels comfortable there, just as the spiritual man feels comfortable in the kingdom of God and considers it his portion and he has a rightful place there.

Which bringeth forth out of his treasure – How would the meaning change if the householder hides his treasure instead of bringing it out?  The treasure would not be very useful then.  What is the treasure of the church that is brought out?  I think it is the doctrines of the gospel and the Restoration.  When is it brought out?  Ideally when it is needed.

treasure both new and old – What is the new and old treasures?  The new treasures are the new things we learn along the way and the old treasures are the basic gospel principles that brought us conversion in the first place.  Note that both the old and new are to be treasured and used.  This is why we should not turn up our noses at principles we’ve heard about many times.  They are still treasures.  They are no less precious for all our long acquaintance with them.  We need only consider how our lives and faith would be poorer without them to realize their worth.

Again, the parable of the householder describes how we endure to the end as disciples—keep learning, keep being instructed, and how we will have old basic principles reinforced in our lives and be taught new things as well.   This perfectly describes what I have seen in my life.  I find the same basic principles reinforced by my experiences and new things taught too.   And of course we should also expect the church instruction to repeat things as well, for which I am grateful.   How sad it would be if we were only taught about repentance once and just expected to remember with no repetition!
Saturday, April 11, 2015 0 comments

Taking the Savior’s Yoke


28 ¶Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matt 11:28-30)

This is more of an incremental insight, but it is precious to me anyway. 

In the past, whenever I have read this, I have wondered, “How does learning of the Savior’s meekness and lowliness help us find rest?” 

In Sunday School a few weeks ago we discussed this block of verses and someone pointed out that if you yoke a trained ox with an untrained one, it is possible for the untrained ox to learned from the trained one.

I liked that a lot.  If we are yoked to the Savior, we can learn how He does things. 

When the burden is heavy, He doesn’t shirk or refuse or fight it.  That is how His meekness and lowliness is exhibited. Also, He didn’t refuse to carry our burnden of sin when He worked out the Atonement.

Just knowing we can go to Him for help lightens our load.  I’ve found that when I take time to remember Him, somehow my spirit is renewed and my soul finds rest.  I had a few days this week when at the end of the day I just was exhausted and wondered how I could go on.  But when I sat and took some time to think about Christ and remembered and envisioned what He did for me, I felt the Spirit renewing my strength.

Thursday, April 9, 2015 0 comments

Disciples given power to remit sins

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Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. (John 20:23)

Jesus spoke this as He visited His disciples for the first time after His resurrection, and as I read it, it struck me how amazing it was that He gave them this power.

It establishes the principle of confession of sins to priesthood authority. (I wonder whether this was to supersede or complement the practice of sacrifice at the temple.)  They can’t go around forgiving random people; they have to wait for people to come to them and confess. 

The power to remit sins isn’t just a feel-good encouragement.  It is the power to declare the heavenly record modified and a person’s sins expunged from that record.  That’s huge.   They can act as agents of God and declare them forgiven as God would do if He were there working with the person.

Our priesthood leaders have this power today and it is such a blessing.  We can go to the bishop and make confession and work through the repentance process with priesthood guidance.
Tuesday, April 7, 2015 0 comments

Limhi’s Drive to Understand

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Something that is neat about King Limhi in the Book of Mosiah is that he a drive to understand why people do what they do.

We can see this when Limhi has first contact with Ammon as Ammon comes into the land.  Ammon broke some kind of security protocol Limhi had and yet Limhi doesn’t automatically kill him, he keeps him alive and asks him why he did what he did.

10 And now, I desire to know the cause whereby ye were so bold as to come near the walls of the city, when I, myself, was with my guards without the gate?
11 And now, for this cause have I suffered that ye should be preserved, that I might inquire of you, or else I should have caused that my guards should have put you to death. Ye are permitted to speak.
12 And now, when Ammon saw that he was permitted to speak, he went forth and bowed himself before the king; and rising again he said: O king, I am very thankful before God this day that I am yet alive, and am permitted to speak; and I will endeavor to speak with boldness; (Mosiah 7: 10-12)

We see another example of this when Limhi’s people bring the wounded Lamanite king to him.  Although his people want to kill the Lamanite king immediately, Limhi stops them because he wants to know why the Lamanite king broke his oath that he would not attack the Nephites.

13 And they took him and bound up his wounds, and brought him before Limhi, and said: Behold, here is the king of the Lamanites; he having received a wound has fallen among their dead, and they have left him; and behold, we have brought him before you; and now let us slay him.
14 But Limhi said unto them: Ye shall not slay him, but bring him hither that I may see him. And they brought him. And Limhi said unto him: What cause have ye to come up to war against my people? Behold, my people have not broken the oath that I made unto you; therefore, why should ye break the oath which ye made unto my people? (Mosiah 20:13-14)

Limhi seems to have the view that people generally have good reasons for what they do and sometimes they are very good ones.  He seems to have realized that one doesn’t take the trouble to find out what those reasons are, one misses important opportunities or important information.

Because Limhi took the trouble to listen to Ammon’s reasons for breaking security protocol—protocol that Ammon certainly didn’t know about—he learned that Ammon was from Zarahemla.   Because Limhi took the trouble to listen to the Lamanite king’s grievance against the Nephites, he was able to make peace.

Today let’s take the time to understand those who seem to intent on driving us crazy or offending us or misbehaving.  Maybe we’ll learn something helpful.

Sunday, April 5, 2015 0 comments

Paul’s citations to establish Christ’s resurrection


33 God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.
34 And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.  (Acts 13:33)

One of the things I find interesting about Paul is that he uses the scriptures very creatively to prove his points.

When he preaches in Antioch, he cites certain scriptures to establish that Christ’s resurrection was prophesied of by the prophets.  His references can be obscure, but it is worth examining how he uses them and thinking about the logic by which he concludes they establish his point.

So the first citation is from Psalms 2:7 which says “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.”  Paul is comparing resurrection to birth.  The speaker in the Psalm speaks for God and declares another (Jesus Christ) is His Son and has been begotten or born in a day.  Christ was born of Mary and was also the Son of God, but His birth was by a mortal mother.  We could say that baptism is a rebirth, and that might be the way we understand it for ourselves when we apply it to us. 

But it best fits the resurrection because when you are born you have the type of body like the one who bore you.  For someone to have a glorified body like Heavenly Father, one that would never die, you have to be resurrected; you have to have your spirit inseparably reunited with your body.

The next scripture cited is part of Isaiah 55:3 : “I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.”

This is an obscure reference to a promise given to David that a descendant of David would always sit on the throne of Israel.  For some time this was interpreted to mean that the Davidic dynasty would continue, but it also prophesied of Christ’s resurrection because He was a descendant of David, and once He was resurrected, He would rule in heaven and would never be removed.  Any time “the sure mercies of David” is mentioned, it is a reference to this promise.

It is neat to find these little references to resurrection and to see how apostles in the former day found them in unexpected places.  It gives me the sense that there are depths in the scriptures yet to be plumbed.

Jesus rose from the dead and because He did, so will we!

Happy Easter!