Thursday, April 29, 2010 1 comments

3 Nephi 18, 20: Jesus teaches different lessons through the sacrament

There are two different instances of Jesus administering the sacrament to people in the Book of Mormon and I recently noticed that the contexts were different and that Jesus used the act to teach different lessons.
1 And it came to pass that Jesus commanded his Disciples that they should bring forth some bread and wine unto him.
2 And while they were gone for bread and wine, he commanded the multitude that they should sit themselves down upon the earth.
3 And when the Disciples had come with bread and wine, he took of the bread and brake and blessed it; and he gave unto the Disciples and commanded that they should eat.
4 And when they had eaten and were filled, he commanded that they should give unto the multitude.
5 And when the multitude had eaten and were filled, he said unto the Disciples: Behold there shall one be ordained among you, and to him will I give power that he shall break bread and bless it and give it unto the people of my church, unto all those who shall believe and be baptized in my name.
6 And this shall ye always observe to do, even as I have done, even as I have broken bread and blessed it and given it unto you.
7 And this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you. And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.
8 And it came to pass that when he said these words, he commanded his Disciples that they should take of the wine of the cup and drink of it, and that they should also give unto the multitude that they might drink of it.
9 And it came to pass that they did so, and did drink of it and were filled; and they gave unto the multitude, and they did drink, and they were filled.
10 And when the Disciples had done this, Jesus said unto them: Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you.
11 And this shall ye always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name; and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you. (3 Nephi 18:1-11, emphasis added)
I learned something very interesting recently from one of the talking heads in the DVD “Reflections of Christ”*. In this incident of the sacrament, Jesus points out that they should eat in remembrance of the body that He had shown unto them. It was noted that here Jesus was making the sacrament a symbol of the tangibleness of the resurrection.

I thought that was very enlightening, since so many times I’ve read through that part and my mind would just assume that Jesus was drawing a comparison to His body that had been “bruised, broken, and torn for us”, creating a symbol of the crucifixion. (And we certainly could take it that way.) But now, I realize than in our sacrament prayers, the words are “that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee” (Mormon 4:3) and there is no mention of the ordeal of crucifixion in this particular prayer. It simply asks us to remember His body, which could suggest two different things for us today. First, it should help us remember the condescension of God, that Christ became mortal for us. Second, it should help us remember that Christ was resurrected and regained His body.

I find this gives an expanded meaning to the sacrament. Not only does it remind us of Christ’s Atonement and death, but it reminds us of His mortal condescension and His resurrection! It symbolically encompasses His whole mission.

Now, interestingly enough, there is this other time when Christ administered the sacrament to the Nephites during His visit. There are some different circumstances, and Christ uses those circumstances to expand on the sacramental symbols.
3 And it came to pass that he brake bread again and blessed it, and gave to the disciples to eat.
4 And when they had eaten he commanded them that they should break bread, and give unto the multitude.
5 And when they had given unto the multitude he also gave them wine to drink, and commanded them that they should give unto the multitude.
6 Now, there had been no bread, neither wine, brought by the disciples, neither by the multitude;
7 But he truly gave unto them bread to eat, and also wine to drink.
8 And he said unto them: He that eateth this bread eateth of my body to his soul; and he that drinketh of this wine drinketh of my blood to his soul; and his soul shall never hunger nor thirst, but shall be filled.
9 Now, when the multitude had all eaten and drunk, behold, they were filled with the Spirit; and they did cry out with one voice, and gave glory to Jesus, whom they both saw and heard. (2 Nephi 20:3-9, emphasis added)
It has always seemed interesting to me that Christ provided the bread and wine miraculously. This is like feeding-the-five-thousand redux, only better. The thing I realized today was that He was using the miraculous providence to draw a comparison for them similar to what He did in the New Testament with His bread of life speech to the Jews; He was strongly tying it to an awareness of the miracle of the manna in the Old Testament. Just like manna came down from heaven, Jesus came down to the Nephites from heaven. Just like the manna miraculously fed the children of Israel, Jesus miraculously provided bread and wine for the Nephites. And just like the manna filled the children of Israel when they were hungry, Jesus promised the Nephites that those who partook ate to their souls and their souls would never hunger or thirst but be filled. This was the promise of satisfying a deep soul-hunger. And we see in verse 9 that this promise was fulfilled; the Nephites were filled with the Spirit and were couldn’t refrain from shouting praises to Jesus.

Jesus used this miracle to teach in a stronger way what the promise of the sacrament was. The first time they were all agog over His resurrected body, so He pointed out how the bread was to remind them of it. The second time, He miraculously provided the bread and wine and while the people were amazed by that, He taught how they would be filled with soul-satisfaction that was just as miraculous as the way the bread and wine was provided. The manna came from heaven, the bread and wine Jesus provided came from heaven, and the Holy Spirit came from heaven. Hunger satisfied, hunger satisfied, and… soul-hunger satisfied.

* I can't say enough good about this DVD. It really helps to bring to life the Savior's visit to the Americas. It makes an excellent Family Home Evening lesson. (Disclosure: I am not associated in any way with the makers of the DVD or those that sell it, and I am not receiving any compensation for this endorsement.)
Wednesday, April 28, 2010 2 comments

Chastening and Chastisement

Today I ran across a scripture that spoke of the Lord chastening His people and I thought, “Hmm, that’s not really a topic that we hear much about in church. Maybe I will study that.” It is interesting that we have talks and lessons about enduring to the end and responding to afflictions and trials as things that just sort of happen in our lives, but we really don’t hear much at all about chastening and chastisement specifically from the Lord. Perhaps this is something that we can learn to recognize and if we recognize it, we can bear it better and profit from it more.

First of all, it might be helpful to look at some dictionary stuff.

Chastise – rebuke or reprimand severely; punish esp. by beating
Chasten –(of a reproof or misfortune) to have a restraining or moderating effect upon, archaic (esp. of God) discipline; punish. At the bottom of the history of this word is the idea of moral purity and chastity

This suggests that chastening is milder than chastisement and it would be wise to be alert to cases when each is used. I really like that idea of the restraining or moderating effect of chastening. That truly feels consistent with how the Lord would try to discipline us.

Chastening is important for families
My servant Newel K. Whitney also, a bishop of my church, hath need to be chastened, and set in order his family, and see that they are more diligent and concerned at home, and pray always, or they shall be removed out of their place. (D&C 93:50)
The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. (Proverbs 29:15)
This scripture suggests both chastisement through the reference to the rod and chastening through the words “reproof give[s] wisdom”. It also warns of the long-term consequences of neglecting a child—parental shame.
Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying. (Proverbs 19:18)
43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death. (D&C 121:43-44)
Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee. (Deuteronomy 8:5)
Chastening from God is evidence of His love
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. (Revelations 3:19)
5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. (Hebrews 12:5-8)
Goals of chastening
And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent; (D&C 1:27)
Nevertheless, I would not suffer that ye should part until you were chastened for all your sins, that you might be one, that you might not perish in wickedness; (D&C 61:8)
9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.
11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. (Hebrews 12:9-11)
Some reasons we are chastened
And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him. (Helaman 12:3)
4 Therefore, they must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son….
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.
7 They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble.
8 In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel; but, in the day of their trouble, of necessity they feel after me. (D&C 101:4,6-8)
Verily I say unto you, that I, the Lord, will chasten them and will do whatsoever I list, if they do not repent and observe all things whatsoever I have said unto them. (D&C 98:21)
And that those who call themselves after my name might be chastened for a little season with a sore and grievous chastisement, because they did not hearken altogether unto the precepts and commandments which I gave unto them. (D&C 103:4)
It is interesting here that the scripture uses both chasten (the mild form) and chastisement (the severe form).
And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience, if it must needs be, by the things which they suffer. (D&C 105:6)
My disciples, in days of old, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened. (D&C 64:8)
And I give unto him a new commission and a new commandment, in the which I, the Lord, chasten him for the murmurings of his heart; (D&C 75:7)
Sources of Chastening
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
(Timothy 3:16-17)
I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: (2 Samuel 7:14)
And thus, with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn; and with famine, and plague, and earthquake, and the thunder of heaven, and the fierce and vivid lightning also, shall the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations; (D&C 87:6)
21 Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith.
22 Nevertheless—whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day. Yea, and thus it was with this people.
23 For behold, I will show unto you that they were brought into bondage, and none could deliver them but the Lord their God, yea, even the God of Abraham and Isaac and of Jacob.
24 And it came to pass that he did deliver them, and he did show forth his mighty power unto them, and great were their rejoicings. (Mosiah 23:21-24)
Problems enduring chastening
And it came to pass that I said unto them that I knew that I had spoken hard things against the wicked, according to the truth; and the righteous have I justified, and testified that they should be lifted up at the last day; wherefore, the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center. (1 Nephi 16:2)
For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified. (D&C 101:5)
…he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom. (D&C 136:31)

Ways we should react to chastening and chastisement
Lord, in trouble have they visited thee, they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them. (Isaiah 26:16)
Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement, I will not offend any more: (Job 34:31)
Promises for enduring chastening and chastisement
17 Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty:
18 For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole.
(Job 5:17-18)
36 But verily I say unto you, that I, the Lord, will contend with Zion, and plead with her strong ones, and chasten her until she overcomes and is clean before me.
37 For she shall not be removed out of her place. I, the Lord, have spoken it. Amen. (D&C 90:36:37)
12 Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy law;
13 That thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit be digged for the wicked. (Psalms 94:12-13)
31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:31-32)
My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion; and (D&C 136:31)
Who makes it all possible?
But [Christ] was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
It is significant that this scripture uses chastisement (the severe form) here.

So what have we learned from these scriptures? Here’s some summaries based upon the above scriptures.

Chastening in families
  • Set house in order
  • Be diligent and concerned at home
  • Pray always
  • Both words and physical discipline can be used
  • Parental shame is a long-term consequence of neglecting a child’s discipline
  • Catch the errors early while there is still hope
  • Reprove with immediately with sharpness when the Spirit directs, then show an increase in love
  • The Lord chastens us like a father.
Chastening shows that Heavenly Father loves us and that we are His children

Goals of chastening are:
  • To get us to repent
  • To help us become unified
  • To save us from dying in our wickedness
  • For our profit
  • So that we can partake of God’s holiness
  • So that we will eventually bear peaceable fruit of righteousness
Some reasons we are chastened:
  • We won’t remember God without all kinds of afflictions happening to us
  • Among us there are jarrings, contentions, envy, strife, lust, covetousness, pollution of our inheritance.
  • We’re slow to listen to God
  • We disregard the counsel of God
  • We don’t observe to do everything God commands
  • We don’t obey completely
  • We seek occasion to be mad at each other and don’t forgive
  • We murmur in our hearts
Sources of chastening:
  • Scriptures
  • Through other people
  • War, bloodshed, famine, plague, earthquake, thunder, lightning,
  • Bondage and slavery
If we can’t endure chastening:
  • We are cut to the center
  • We feel like the truth is hard
  • We can’t be sanctified
  • We are not worthy of God’s kingdom
Ways we should react to chastening:
  • Pray
  • Decided not to offend anymore
  • (REPENT)
Promises for enduring chastening:
  • The hurt will be healed
  • We will overcome
  • We will be clean before God
  • We will not be removed out of our place
  • We will have rest from days of adversity
  • We will not be condemned with the world
  • We will be prepared to receive the glory God has to give us
Christ was chastised (not chastened) on our behalf.
Monday, April 26, 2010 2 comments

What are dead works?

I was reading section 22 of the Doctrine & Covenants and I ran across that term “dead works”.
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Manchester, New York, April 1830. HC 1: 79–80. This revelation was given to the Church in consequence of some who had previously been baptized desiring to unite with the Church without rebaptism.

1 Behold, I say unto you that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing; and this is a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning.
2 Wherefore, although a man should be baptized an hundred times it availeth him nothing, for you cannot enter in at the strait gate by the law of Moses, neither by your dead works.
3 For it is because of your dead works that I have caused this last covenant and this church to be built up unto me, even as in days of old.
4 Wherefore, enter ye in at the gate, as I have commanded, and seek not to counsel your God. Amen. (D&C 22:1-4)
The term that interested me was “dead works”. The general gist that I get from this chapter is that temporary rules (like the Law of Moses) are dead works, whereas the more ancient works are more enduring.

I decided I wanted to learn more about what “dead works” meant. So I went to the index and the topical guide to see if I could get some perspective. Here are some scriptures I found:
22 For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing—
23 But it is mockery before God, denying the mercies of Christ, and the power of his Holy Spirit, and putting trust in dead works. (Moroni 8:22-23)
This suggests that dead works are those that are done upon those who don’t need it. Mormon’s letter to Moroni names little children and those without the law as those who don’t need baptism. They simply don’t know enough to be accountable. Another example of dead works would probably be duplications of vicarious temple ordinances.
27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.
28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?
29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. (John 6:27-29)
This suggests that live works are strongly coupled with belief in Christ and that dead works are those that are dissociated from Christ or done without belief in Christ.
10 And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it.
11 But if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return. (3 Nephi 27:10-11)
This suggests to me that dead works tend to spiritual death, which makes them the works of men or the devil. On the positive end, I think there is a thought that is very significant—“[if] the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it.” This indicates that live works are actually the Father’s works—what He would do if He were doing it. It could mean that the church is given examples to follow from the Father and it could mean that the live works act as signs as well.

The labour of the righteous tendeth to life: the fruit of the wicked to sin. (Proverbs 10:16)

This shows us that live works bring us closer to eternal life (enlarging our souls, enhancing our spirituality), while dead works actually bring with them a tendency towards sin.
24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you. (1 Peter 1:24-25)
Even the works of men, well-intentioned as they are, are dead works. If our works are to endure, they must have their foundation in the gospel with the power of the priesthood.
Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy…(2 Nephi 9:51)
This tells us that dead works do not (indeed cannot) satisfy us. (And they certainly don’t satisfy the Lord.) On the other hand, live works will satisfy us, as the rest of the verse says, as shown below:
…come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness. (2 Nephi 9:51)
And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of baptism—All those who [:]
humble themselves before God,
and desire to be baptized,
and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits,
and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins,
and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ,
having a determination to serve him to the end,
and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins,
shall be received by baptism into his church. (D&C 20:37)
Look at the verbs in that list. Humble, desire, come forth, witness, are willing, having a determination, truly manifest. These are the doings of live works preliminary to baptism. And really, they aren’t much different from the live works we should have after baptism as well. Dead works would be the opposite: puffing up, apathy, heart hearts, denying the Spirit, unwillingness, uncommitted, falsely manifesting.
6 For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.
7 For behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness.
8 For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God.
9 And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such. (Moroni 7:6-9)
This tells us that unless real intent is attached to our works, they don’t do us any good, which means they are dead works. I think this was given us so that we can learn to monitor the intentions behind our works and pray for a purer intent if we find ourselves lacking. On the more positive side, when the works are done with real intent we DO profit from them, which I think means that we are sanctified by those works. (For example, when our service is done with real intent, we come out of the temple better people than we were when we went in.)
And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever. (Isaiah 32:17)
This shows us that live works are those that give us peace and assurance and that dead works will leave us uncertain.
For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:14)
This seems to suggest that God will also judge every religious work, whether it was a dead work or a live work.

In summary, it seems that for religious works to be live rather than dead, they have to have these characteristics:
  • They are built upon the Lord’s works
  • They are according to the Lord’s eternal word
  • They are founded on the gospel
  • They are done to those that have been given the law and who need it
  • They are done with real intent
  • They are done with belief in Christ
Live works are promised these blessings:
  • The worker is given peace and assurance forever
  • The worker is satisfied
  • The Lord considers the work righteous
  • The worker is sanctified
Wednesday, April 21, 2010 0 comments

The Parable of the Visiting Lord

This is one of those parables that has always struck me as particularly interesting and mysterious. Since it is in the Doctrine & Covenants, we don’t hit it when we talk about Christ’s parables in the New Testament. And of course, in Sunday School we only have a limited time to go over a number of chapters.

So I want to call your attention to this parable to point out some things that I notice and I hope you will point out things that you notice and maybe we’ll all learn something more.
51 Behold, I will liken these kingdoms unto a man having a field, and he sent forth his servants into the field to dig in the field.
52 And he said unto the first: Go ye and labor in the field, and in the first hour I will come unto you, and ye shall behold the joy of my countenance.
53 And he said unto the second: Go ye also into the field, and in the second hour I will visit you with the joy of my countenance.
54 And also unto the third, saying: I will visit you;
55 And unto the fourth, and so on unto the twelfth.
56 And the lord of the field went unto the first in the first hour, and tarried with him all that hour, and he was made glad with the light of the countenance of his lord.
57 And then he withdrew from the first that he might visit the second also, and the third, and the fourth, and so on unto the twelfth.
58 And thus they all received the light of the countenance of their lord, every man in his hour, and in his time, and in his season—
59 Beginning at the first, and so on unto the last, and from the last unto the first, and from the first unto the last;
60 Every man in his own order, until his hour was finished, even according as his lord had commanded him, that his lord might be glorified in him, and he in his lord, that they all might be glorified.
61 Therefore, unto this parable I will liken all these kingdoms, and the inhabitants thereof—every kingdom in its hour, and in its time, and in its season, even according to the decree which God hath made. (D&C 88:51-61)
Some things that I notice is that the lord wants to visit his servants. But he wants to visit them all, so he schedules his time with them. I notice they all get an hour with him. And he tells them ahead of time when to expect him and he keeps to his schedule.

Something else I notice is that once the lord gets done visiting the last servant, he starts visiting everybody all over again, but he uses this interesting cycle thing where he visits the second to last, then the third to the last, all the way to the first. It’s that whole “the first shall be last and the last shall be first” thing all over again.

Something else—the servants are not sitting twiddling their thumbs while they wait for their turn. They are working hard.

So what is this parable supposed to be talking about? “Therefore, unto this parable I will liken all these kingdoms, and the inhabitants thereof—every kingdom in its hour, and in its time, and in its season” What are these kingdoms? Could they be worlds and the mansions that God has prepared as they are filled with people?

Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will (D&C 88:68).

This seems to suggest that it can be fulfilled during our mortal life as well. We can each be assured of a personal visit from God at some point in our mortal lives, once we have sanctified ourselves and become completely focused on Him.

Now, on to something else related to this issue…

In the New Testament, in the Book of John there are suggestions of this prospect of seeing God.
No man hath seen God at any time, except them who believe.
If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:12, Joseph Smith Translation emphasized)
I found a verse further on which made me suspicious that some kind of narrow-minded changes had been made.
Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God. (3 John 1:11)
Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosever continueth in sin hath not seen him, neither known him. (1 John 3:6, Joseph Smith Translation emphasized)

Why did these verses make me suspicious? Because John is very repetitious and even-handed in these epistles for the most part, contrasting very carefully the difference between those who know God and those who don’t, and he consistently uses the same language. (I'm not questioning Joseph Smith's stuff, by the way; I'm questioning the surrounding text.) I’ll give you some examples of this below:
He that hath the Son hath life;
and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. (1 John 5:12)
have the Son, have life
have not the Son, have no life

It’s a perfectly parallel construction.
Hereby know ye the spirit of God:
Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God… (1 John 4:2-3)
Confess Christ, of God.
Confess not Christ, not of God.

Another perfect parallelism.
They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.
We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us;
he that is not of God heareth not us.
Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:5-6)
If you know God, you hear us.
If you don’t know God, you don’t hear us.

Another perfect parallelism.
We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.
He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. (1 John 3:14)
Love the brethren, go from death to life
Not loving brethren, stay in death

Another perfect parallelism.
He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother,
is in darkness even until now.
He that loveth his brother
abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. (1 John 2:9-10)
Hate brother: be in darkness
Love brother: abide in light and avoid stumbling

The contrast is point-for-point.
Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (1 John 2:15-16)
Hate brother: takes other people’s lives: has no eternal life
Love of God: gave own life for us
We: should sacrifice our lives for others
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God;
and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)
Love: born of God, know God
No love: knoweth not God
And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (1 John 2:3-4)
The above quoted verses are so that you can see how carefully John constructed these parallel statements.

So then I come across these next verse:
Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good.
He that doeth good is of God:
but he that doeth evil hath not seen God. (3 John 1:11)
What if the order was switched? It might give us a stronger feeling that something was odd.

He that doeth evil hath not seen God
But he that doeth good is of God

Following John’s pattern of making strong parallel statements, I get the feeling it should have said “he that doeth good hath seen God”. If it was like this in the beginning when it was first written, it is understandable that it would be quickly edited. Lots of people would think to themselves, “I do good and I haven’t seen God, therefore this statement is false.” However, as we have seen from the parable of the visiting lord, the Lord’s visits to us (after we have been sanctified with an eye single to His glory) still happen according to His timeframe.

Furthermore, we have modern revelation from Joseph Smith:
John 13:23—The appearing of the Father and the Son, in that verse, is a personal appearance; and the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false. (Doctrine & Covenants 130:3, emphasis added)
Let’s take the next verse from 1 John that seems not quite according to pattern:
Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not:
whosoever continueth in sin hath not seen him, neither known him. (1 John 3:6, Joseph Smith Translation emphasized)
Switching the order, we get this:

Whosoever continueth in sin hath not seen him, neither known him
Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not

See? The positive part seems too weak in comparison to the strength of the negative portion. And it is practically insulting our intelligence to say that someone who continues to sin hasn’t seen God or known Him, and there doesn’t seem like any good reason for pointing it out unless its positive counterpart had once been there:

Whosoever abideth in him hath seen him and known him.

It is my feeling that these scriptures were tampered with at some point.
Saturday, April 17, 2010 6 comments

The Healed Wounds


(The following is something older I found in my files but it was good enough that I thought I would share it.)

I recently finished reading the April 2010 Ensign magazine and as I was looking at the front cover, I realized something. The cover was of the apostles looking at the prints in Christ’s hand from His crucifixion. I thought about those marks and I realized just how miraculous they really were.

The nails went all the way through Jesus’s hand and feet. Yet when the apostles saw the resurrected Lord, those gaping holes were healed and only prints remained in the skin. They witnessed that something had happened and they witnessed that the hurt had been healed.

What does this teach us? I think that it shows us how we can be healed from all of our wounds—physical, emotional, spiritual—through Christ’s redeeming power. I expect that the prints of those wounds will remain; after all, nothing can erase that those things happened. But the wounds will be healed.

Here’s another picture that I found related to this idea. (It’s almost disgusting how amazingly wonderful it is.)


(Image#1 from http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?locale=0&sourceId=52ce06c7b9097210VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=ccb1d48fa58db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD)

(Image #2 from at http://diannehanks.com/category/ask-me-mailbag/)
Friday, April 16, 2010 1 comments

Three Types of Scattering and the Scatter-Gather Cycle

In 3 Nephi 21 at the end of the chapter, there is a massive repetition of the ideas of gathering the scattered remnants of the house of Israel, which I encourage you to study. (Particularly, notice which words seem to be repeated over and over again.)

In the process of studying different repeated words and ideas, I noticed something in this verse:
And then shall the work of the Father commence at that day, even when this gospel shall be preached among the remnant of this people. Verily I say unto you, at that day shall the work of the Father commence among all the dispersed of my people, yea, even the tribes which have been lost, which the Father hath led away out of Jerusalem. (3 Nephi 21:26)
There seemed to be three different ways that Christ spoke of the scattered:
  1. All the dispersed of my people
  2. The tribes which have been lost
  3. Led away out of Jerusalem
These three different expressions—dispersed, lost, led away—seem to suggest different mechanisms. “Dispersed” suggests the idea of a large group being spread out or distributed over a wide area. “Lost” suggests that a people no longer exist, can no longer be tracked, or awareness of their existence has been lost. It could also suggest death. “Led away” suggested that an agent has been a guide to a group of people to take them elsewhere.

These three different expressions for scattering suggest that there can also be three different methods of gathering that correspond. The dispersed can collect, congregate, and coalesce. The lost can be located, found, discovered. And those led away can be led back.

Cycles of gathering and scattering abound in families, in the church, and in our doctrine.

In our families, a male and female come together and are permanently gathered by a sealing ceremony and they accumulate (gather) children. Families gather for meals, play, prayer, scripture study, etc, then they disperse. They are together when at home, then they disperse to work and school, then they gather together again. Children grow up and they disperse. Families come together for family reunions, then they disperse. We are promised that sealed families will be gathered together forever in the celestial kingdom.

In the church, we gather together for our meetings, then we scatter back to our homes. Together, apart, together, apart. We gather missionaries together to train them and then disperse them into the world so that they can gather more people into the church. There is gathering (unity) over doctrine, but then there is also contention and apostasy, which scatters and fragments. Through the fall we are scattered by sin, but then we are gathered to the Lord through repentance.

Because the scatter-gather dynamic is so much a part of our lives, the Lord makes use of it as a teaching tool and also points out global scatter-gather movements so that we can see how He uses it to bring about our salvation. The plan of salvation is a massive scatter-gather operation as the spirit children of God disperse from heaven to mortal life to be tested, and then are gathered home after death.
Sunday, April 11, 2010 7 comments

Christ’s Parable of the Wedding Feast Reveals the 3 Degrees of Glory

This parable turned out to be more challenging than I thought it would be, but it was also incredibly rewarding to study it. I will share with you some important insights that came to me as I worked on it.

The whole thing

1 And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said,
2 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son,
3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.
4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.
5 But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise:
6 And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.
7 But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.
8 Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.
9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.
10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.
11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:
12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.
13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
14 For many are called, but few are chosen [wherefore all do not have on the wedding garment]. (Matthew 22:1-14, JST bracketed, compare to Luke 14:15-24)

Okay, from the beginning..
2 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son,
3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.
If a king were going to have a wedding for his son, it would make sense that he would make sure that everyone knew about it beforehand. The invitations would have been sent out long before the actual event. This makes it seem very surprising that the people who were invited would not come. Why did they not come?

Perhaps the invites were sent out so far ahead that people began to think that the wedding feast wasn’t really going to happen, so they started filling up their life with other stuff instead. Maybe the delay made them think that the king wasn’t really serious about these invitations. Or maybe they weren’t excited about it, so they strategically positioned things they were more interested in over the top of the invited time so that they could say they had something else to do.

I can imagine this being the case. When there is a major delay between news of an event and the event itself, I have a hard time motivating myself to prepare for it. Just recently one of my friends sent me an invitation to her son’s wedding, and I set it aside, assuming that there was lots of time, and I didn’t even stick it on the calendar. The next time I thought about it was two weeks later, and then when I went to look at the date of the wedding, I realized the date had just passed. Whoops. (cringe)

This causes me to think about where I want to be. Am I merely content with the day-to-day business or am I thinking about, yearning for, preparing for the wedding feast, distant though it may seem?

What is the wedding feast?

Perhaps the wedding feast could refer to the church in the former days. This parable was given during the week before his crucifixion. The Jews would reject Jesus, and they were destroyed by the Romans around 70 A.D. However, this interpretation is problematic.

The first problem we encounter with this interpretation is this—the mind recoils at the idea of these Roman armies corresponding to the armies of the king, if we interpret the king to be Heavenly Father. Angel armies we can accept. Roman armies, not so much. But let us pass over this for the moment and see if we can find any other helpful similarities.

The conversion of gentiles to the gospel seems to correspond at least loosely with the parable details about people brought in from the highways to the feast. And certainly correct doctrine could be considered a joyful feast, yes? However, the problem with this is that the great apostasy does not correspond with the parable’s detail about the king tossing out the man without the wedding garment. Rather, if the events of the apostasy were translated into the parable, it would seem that the man without the wedding garment threw out all the other guests and the king! So it seems that this parable doesn’t perfectly correspond to the events in the former day church. We must look for another interpretation.

It appears that the wedding feast has to come at the end of the world, at the final judgment. One overlooked detail that seems to suggest this is the parable’s ending with all the properly clothed guests at the feast with no word about what comes afterward. It is as if the feast will continue forever and the guests no longer need to worry about every-day concerns. All the king has will be given to those who come. Another detail that indicates this is that the wedding feast is given on the occasion of the marriage of the king’s son. This could be the presentation of the purified church to God, since Christ has referred to Himself elsewhere as the bridegroom. This can only occur at the end of the world and the final judgment. Further, we haven’t yet seen the destruction of all the wicked who reject and persecute the saints and the prophets. That has yet to be fulfilled.

The wedding feast could also be considered to be taking the sacrament. We have to be prepared for that, yes? But while this possibility is intriguing in its surface similarities of eating, the events surrounding weekly administration of the sacrament don’t correspond in the essential details about the groups of people invited then destroyed for their rejection, so this can’t be what was intended by the parable.

So the wedding feast comes at or after the final judgment. Grasping this detail helps us understand the reactions that follow announcement of the feast. Plainly this necessitates preparation and no wonder people put off the invitation.
4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.
5 But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise:
6 And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.
7 But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.
We can’t underline enough the folly of refusing an invitation from the king. It smells of rebellion. The king wants people to come to a CELEBRATION, for heaven’s sake! Yet knowing as we do the world’s reaction to any invitation to repent and prepare for the final judgment, the invitation seems to suggest waiting the length of a lifetime, and God seems so far away and so far removed from life that the urgency is lost on them.

Now, what of those servants who are so diligent in delivering the message?

The invitation goes out through the servants. There are multiples rounds of invitation. These servants undoubtedly represent the prophets. They can also represent missionaries sharing the gospel, church leaders extending callings/invitations to get ready to go to the temple, and all the calls to repentance that we hear throughout our lives.
8 Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.
9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.
10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.
What are the highways? Who are the people on the highways? What is significant about being on the highways that leads these people to accept the invitation?

If they were on the highways, they were travelers, going from one place to another. Perhaps this indicates they were leaving a place they didn’t want to be, going somewhere they wanted to go. When an exciting alternative was offered them, they took it. They were willing to divert their journey (or interrupt it) in favor of going to the king’s wedding. Perhaps they were searching. Maybe they felt they didn’t have anything to lose by coming to the wedding feast. (So Perhaps the people who didn’t listen to the invitation were too content with where they were and what they were doing.) Here are some scriptures that seem to throw light on the significance of highways in this parable:
The highway of the upright is to depart from evil: he that keepeth his way preserveth his soul. (Proverbs 16:17)
And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. (Isaiah 35:8)
Who are the good and bad on the highways, and why do both end up at the wedding feast? I suspect that one way we could interpret this is that there were people who had backgrounds of goodness and people who had backgrounds of badness. Both types came, and that was important. They both respond to the call, and they come, as opposed to those who don’t listen to the servants. Elsewhere, Christ elaborates on this point in His parable of the fishing net.
47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind:
48 Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. (Matt. 13:47-48)
This leads to the next question. What do we make of the man who was not clothed in a wedding garment?

What’s wrong with not wearing a wedding garment to the wedding feast?

It’s hard for us to understand why someone would be thrown out for wearing the wrong thing. We have to remember that wearing the wedding garment would be how the guests would show respect for the king. Remember, wearing our Sunday best to church and to the temple shows our reverence to God. If we remember that the wedding feast is part of the final judgment, we understand better the necessity of being prepared. Further, that it was a WEDDING FEAST suggests that the occasion itself calls for the very best.

The next difficulty we face is this—it seems unfair that the man is thrown out of the wedding feast for not having a wedding garment; after all, the servants grabbed people from the highways. It seems paradoxical to gather these people from highways and then require a wedding garment be worn. People don’t carry formal wear when on the road. The king was rich; he should have provided wedding garments for his guests, right?

In terms of the gospel, yes, Heavenly Father has provided every one of us with the wedding garment of righteousness when we repent and come unto Christ. All of us have sinned (except Christ), so none of us are righteous of ourselves. The Atonement washes our sins from us, making us pure, and the grace of Christ covers us, works in us, giving us power and inclination to do righteous things that we couldn’t do on our own.

So, the king did provide wedding garments for his guests so that they wouldn’t be embarrassed to come.

So now we ask again, why didn’t the man wear the wedding garment? Maybe we should first probe further about what the wedding garment is.
And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. (Revelation 19:8, emphasis added)
This is the “dress code” for heaven.
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. (Isaiah 61:10, emphasis added)
9 Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy. . . .
16 I will also clothe her priests with salvation: and her saints shall shout aloud for joy. (Psalms 132:9,16, emphasis added)
12 And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, and it hath gone forth in a firm decree, by the will of the Father, that mine apostles, the Twelve which were with me in my ministry at Jerusalem, shall stand at my right hand at the day of my coming in a pillar of fire, being clothed with robes of righteousness, with crowns upon their heads, in glory even as I am, to judge the whole house of Israel, even as many as have loved me and kept my commandments, and none else.
13 For a trump shall sound both long and loud, even as upon Mount Sinai, and all the earth shall quake, and they shall come forth—yea, even the dead which died in me, to receive a crown of righteousness, and to be clothed upon, even as I am, to be with me, that we may be one. (D&C 29:12-13, emphasis added)
Wherefore, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness; and the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness. (2 Nephi 9:14, emphasis added)
Language about being clothed can also refer to the glorious resurrection:
2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. (2 Cor. 5:2-3, emphasis added)
There are other righteous qualities suggested:
4 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. (Revelation 3:4-5, emphasis added)
But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to fall the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead. (D&C 138:30, emphasis added)
Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:5, emphasis added)
And above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace. (D&C 88:125, emphasis added)
As a side question: could going to the temple correspond to going to the wedding feast? Both going to the temple and participating in the wedding feast seem to call for special clothing. Again, while this possibility is intriguing, the events surrounding a trip to the temple don’t correspond in the essential details to the parable’s groups of people invited and then destroyed for their rejection, so this can’t be what was intended by the parable. It seems then that faithful temple attendance in the general sense must be viewed as part of the process of putting on the wedding garment. (Of course, this doesn’t prevent us from pretending as we go to the temple and worship there that we are going to the wedding feast. It may help us remember that we are practicing for the real thing.)

So what does it mean that the man didn’t have the wedding garment on?

The man who rejected the wedding garment must have thought that he was fine how he was and he didn’t need to change for anyone. He seems to have been determined to corrupt the king’s wedding, determined to different from all others. He took his rebellion into the king’s very house, determined to defy the saying that “No unclean thing can enter into the kingdom of God”. The command to bind the man hand and foot and throw him into outer darkness suggests that this is a son of perdition. He’s taken his rebellion to the very limit, while pretending to be obedient. He is a hypocrite. The man can have nothing to say.

***

Okay, so we’ve gotten to this point. I have to point out here that I haven’t presented this in the same order that I realized it in. The real order was here, there, over there, back here again, and extremely disjointed. If I had done it in the same order, you would have thought me a very bad writer. If I’ve done my job right, you should be right along with me. Well, now I have to go back to sharing with you some other things that I found in the middle of this process that enabled me to come to the conclusions I’ve shared with you up to this point.

I really thought a lot about this parable. I would analyze parts and think that I got it and then I would think about other parts and get completely confused again. In the end, I asked myself what the main point of it seemed to be. The main point of this parable is to show the slow whittling down of the number of guests that actually make it to the wedding feast and to show the various reasons why they fail to make the cut. The words at the end of the parable underlined this—“Many are called, but few are chosen.” I thought about this for quite a long time. It haunted me with its simplicity; it seemed to ring like a gong through my head. I couldn’t figure out why that was, but I knew there was something there, something of great significance. Thinking so long and hard about this gradually led me to realize that this parable was actually setting forth the three degrees of glory, according to the various groups of people invited to the wedding feast.

Telestial - Some take the invitation seriously and feel threatened by it and the messengers. This indicates that they feel it is an encroachment upon their freedom to order their own lives as they want. They oppose the servants and murder them, and by doing so, implicitly oppose the king. (These people are destroyed by the king’s armies.)

Terrestrial - Some don’t take the invitation seriously and treat it as a joke. They are too busy “minding their own business” making a living on the farm or with their store. (It is not quite clear whether they are destroyed or not.) They are honorable, but deceived by the craftiness of men.

Celestial - The people gathered from the highways are those who actually listened to the king’s servants and came to the wedding feast. (a remnant?) They prepare themselves in spite of the shortness of the time they have to prepare. They put on the wedding garment.

Outer Darkness - Some accept the invitation to the wedding feast, yet come without a wedding garment. They seem to have made the conscious decision to NOT prepare themselves. These are detected and cast out. They weep and wail and gnash their teeth. (There is nothing they can do to change the outcome; they can’t turn back the clock and make different choices.)

This interpretation adds greater depth to our understanding of the gospel. It shows us how accepting the gospel is not enough; that’s like accepting the invitation. We also have to prepare ourselves with the wedding garment or we will be cast out at the last day.
Christ’s parable of the net seems to underline this idea. Even if we have been gathered in the gospel net, unless we are “good fishes”, we will be cast out.
47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind:
48 Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.
49 So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just,
50 And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 13:47-50, emphasis added)
I don’t think this refers to the first destruction of the people who wouldn’t even come to the wedding feast. I think reiterates the judgment that will occur among those who have come to the wedding feast, i.e. those who have joined the church. It is very easy to interpret the severing of the wicked from among the just as the destruction at the second coming of Christ, but what this points to is another judgment of removing the hypocrites from among the righteous.

Okay, back to the parable of the wedding feast..

I’ve told you I really spent a lot of time thinking about that haunting sentence—“Many are called, but few are chosen.” Something else I realized was that this very parable of the wedding garment had to be what Joseph Smith was pondering when he wrote those powerful words in D&C 121:34-36. “Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?...” The statement “Many are called, but few are chosen” must have haunted him even more than it haunted me. So I read the following with new understanding for the context:
34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.
39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen. (Doctrine & Covenants 121:34-40)
The parable describes people that have been called to the king's wedding feast and make light of it, preferring to go to their farms and merchandise. Joseph Smith observed, "Their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world and aspire to the honors of men". It was exciting to realize that was exactly what Joseph Smith was thinking about. I probably wouldn't have realized it if I hadn't been studying that same parable in order to do a blog post on it.

Yet Joseph Smith’s words bring up another difficulty. When Joseph Smith comments on the people who kick against the pricks, persecute the saints, and fight against God, he seems to refer to those who refused to accept the wedding invitation and who were eventually destroyed. This also seems to be substantiated by the idea that they set their hearts on things of the world. However, then he connects these ideas with those who have had the priesthood conferred upon them and who cover their sins, gratify their pride, or exercise unrighteous dominion, which seems to begin to refer to those who have come to the wedding feast without a wedding garment. Which is he referring to?

I suspect that he has to be referring to those coming to the wedding feast without a wedding garment because afterward he discourses on how the priesthood should be exercised, listing qualities that would fit really well into a description of charity. This would certainly allow the priesthood to put on the wedding garment and prepare them for the wedding feast. Joseph Smith’s statements about the priesthood setting their hearts on the things of men seems to indicate that even those who have accepted the king’s invitation may in the end fail to come to the wedding feast when the time comes. I think this expands on the characteristics of those who do not put on the wedding garment.

So what have we learned from this parable?
  • The wedding feast is the end of the world, the final judgment.
  • The wedding garment is the righteousness of the saints, which encompasses all the virtues.
  • The parable sets forth the three degrees of glory and warns of the penalty for refusing the invitation to come to the wedding feast and for not preparing one’s self.
  • We’ve learned that Joseph Smith was pondering this parable when he discoursed on the proper use of the priesthood in D&C 121.
Monday, April 5, 2010 4 comments

Seeing clearly

My eyes went bad at a very early age—around first grade. I started to realize this when I noticed that I couldn’t read the hymn numbers on the chapel wall even though our family sat on the second row. So my mom took me to the eye doctor and I got my first set of glasses. During the years that followed, I had to have my prescription made more powerful about once every year until I was about in junior high school. By this time, my glasses were quite thick and from time to time people called me “coke-bottle” eyes. Sometimes when I looked in the mirror, it seemed to me that my eyes appeared half the size of what they would look like without my glasses.

When I was a freshman in high school, my mom allowed me to get a pair of contact lenses. This, I was sure, would jumpstart my social life and give me a chance in the dating scene in a few years.


I didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be for me to learn how to put my contact lenses in, however. Whether it was an exceptionally strong protective instinct or whether it was my own squeamishness about touching my own eyeball, the process of putting my contacts in took a long time. My father eventually gave me a little rubber tool that seemed to make it easier for me. On one end it had a little cup that I could place my contact in before applying it to my eye. On the other end, were two rubber prongs that could be used to pinch the contact off my eye. I used this tool for years before I became accustomed enough that I could put in and take out my contacts with just my fingers.

I remember when I first got my contacts, I was so elated about how I looked when wearing them, that I promised myself that I would never wear my glasses out in public again if I could help it. I appreciated the ability to see clearly in a way that seemed so natural.

My experience with contacts prepared me to better understand this scripture:
Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. (Proverbs 7:2)
Our ancient fathers used the phrase “apple of the eye” to refer to the iris and pupil of the eye. They admonished us to see everything through the lens of the commandments and the law of the gospel.

When we are born again, it is as if we put on contact lenses that help us see things the way the Lord sees them. It also makes it easier for others to see us for who we really are—children of God—as they notice how our behavior changes.

Unlike contact lenses, however, we do not need to take these gospel lenses off every night before we go to bed. We are encouraged to keep them in all the time.

To keep our gospel vision from growing dim and blurry, we must frequently repent. We must also read our scriptures and follow the living prophets. When we do these things, Lord gives us eyes to see afar off and gives us an eye single to the glory of God. We see not just with physical eyes, but with spiritual eyes.

The idea of vision is used in prophecies and is used to teach important principles in the scriptures.
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: (Joel 2:28)
And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: (Isaiah 29:11)
Spiritual vision and prophesy was tightly associated with the authorship of the Book of Mormon and became just as important in the translation of it.

Nephi wrote of his father’s ability to see clearly.
…he hath written many things which he saw in visions and in dreams; and he also hath written many things which he prophesied and spake unto his children, of which I shall not make a full account. (1 Nephi 1:16)
Because Lehi had clear vision of the gospel and the truth, he shared his views with his children which blessed them to begin to see clearly as well.

These words were written about king Uzziah who reigned in Israel:
And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper. (2 Chronicles 26:5)
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (Proverbs 29:18)
Righteous views contribute to our secular learning as well, which Daniel and his companions found out:
As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. (Daniel 1:17)
Cultivation of the Holy Ghost in our lives with a gospel view of the world will help us see clearly.

Image: http://www.corriganopticians.co.uk/index.php?id=79913&option=1230
Sunday, April 4, 2010 4 comments

Reflections on General Conference (April 2010)

I feel that there was so much emphasis on teaching our families because the Lord sees how more and more families are becoming isolated and disconnected from each other because of media over-consumption. Parents are escaping from children through media. Children are escaping from parents through media. Spouses are escaping each other through media. I’ve noticed this in my own life. The emphasis our church places on teaching families shows that the world trend is toward leaving kids to themselves (the opposite direction).

I loved what Elder Bednar said about early warning signals parents can use with their children. How children respond to the messages of the gospel is indeed a fabulous sign of their spiritual well-being. If they are reluctant to be involved, it can signal that they are pointed in the wrong direction. If they are excited to be involved, it can show that they are on the right track.

In a world where the gospel light is being obscured in day-to-day interactions and secular viewpoints, we can be a beacon of light. First by showing that it is okay to talk about these things, and secondly by sharing the important principles we know.

Elder Bednar suggested that we teach our children how to learn by study and by faith. This can only be done if we model for them our diligent learning process. This can be modeled in family home evening if parents pose the family with a question and then guide the family towards searching for the answer in the scriptures to find the answer, and then help the family commit to a more godly course of action as suggested by family findings. Consistent use of this method will teach the children that it is okay to have questions and teach them important methods and strategies for finding the answers themselves. In this way, parents can teach their children by example how to learn by diligent study and also by faith.

I really liked how Elder Holland took a fresh approach to decrying pornography by going to the root of the matter, which is lust. This showed great spiritual discernment. When he said that there is so much of an improper portrayal of love in society and family, this suggested to me that those of us in the arts need to make sure to incorporate PROPER portrayals of love in society and family into our works

Elder Holland’s analysis of lust versus love suggested to me that we would do well to try and find the roots of other great sins.

The mention of the Personal Progress and Duty to God programs caused me to realize that maybe I need to go to those booklets and seek to increase my talents and capabilities that way.

I liked how Elder M. Russell Ballard suggested that we teach our daughters the joy of nurturing children. One way this could be done is if we put a daughter in charge of teaching a younger child how to do something particular. This will allow the daughter to experience joy when the younger child achieves success. In preparing their daughters to teach the younger child, there can be discussions of why the child needs to learn it, how best to approach it, ideas for things to try, encouragement and support, etc. Not only can the daughter gain the confidence of being a good influence on the younger child, but she can gain a sense of the planning that has to happen behind effective teaching. This will give her a new respect for her parents’ teaching and help her begin to see the intent behind what they ask her to do.

This can also help create a second force for good in the life of the younger child. Not only will they look up to the parent, but they will look up to and revere the older sibling, who taught them something special. This kind begin the process of binding siblings together in love, which is very important in families, especially when there are so many dysfunctional families.

I really liked what Elder Anderson said about teaching our children about Jesus and telling them stories from His life. I liked how he said we can apply stories from His life to their problems. It seems evident to me that this will become more natural for us if we become adept at applying those same stories to OUR lives first. I remember my own testimony of Christ began to sprout most quickly as a teenager when I decided to read the New Testament on my own every day.

I really liked Elder Keith McMullin’s points about doing our duty. One great key he gave was to watch and pray always lest we enter into temptation. Satan tempts us to neglect our duty, and his temptations are alluring, so we need to recognize when we are being tempted and then pray for power to overcome those temptations. I’ve found this to be increasingly true in my life. I’m finding that I am faced with so many distractions now that I have to pray for wisdom to know what is most important to do.

President Monson’s talk on the resurrection suggests to me that in these dark times we can find hope in the prospect of future resurrection.

For those of us who have lost loved ones, there is the anticipation of reuniting with them in the future. For those of us who are struggling with sin, we use our anticipation of the resurrection to drive us to prepare for that day when we will have mercy restored for mercy, righteousness restored for righteousness, and so on.
The doctrine of the resurrection reminds us that this life is preparatory, and that what we do here and now DOES matter.

President Monson reminded us of the people in the scriptures who witnessed the reality of the resurrection. The apostles saw it. The Nephites saw it. Joseph Smith saw it. They all wrote it so that we know it isn’t some pipe dream. We can’t see now how important this reminder may be in the coming days, so we need to be watchful and let these things sink deep into our hearts.

Elder M. Russell Ballard made a very good point about how mothers need to teach their daughters about modesty. One good time for teaching about modesty is just before going to shop for clothes with daughters and sons. This teaching can prep them as to what they need to think about as they choose clothing. Mothers can share with daughters expectations about what kind of clothes are appropriate and what clothes will not be permitted. Mothers can help daughters develop tests for their clothes to determine whether they are modest enough. Mothers can also discuss the fit of the clothing their daughters are trying on and analyze it with their daughters according to righteous principles like the following:
  • Can I raise my hands high and not have any waistline skin show?
  • Can I bend over and not worry about people seeing cleavage?
  • Can I squat and not have to worry about my jeans gaping in back?
Mothers can also share with daughters their own strategies for finding modest clothes. Where do you go? How do you look? What brands do you find consistently modest?

Summary of instructions given in conference:
  • Teach our children:
  • The stories of Jesus
  • All things pertaining to righteousness
  • How obtain knowledge by study and by faith
  • About modesty, dating, and other important issues
  • Do family history and help to resolve errors and duplication in the current records online.
  • Participate in Personal Progress and Duty to God with our children
  • Cultivate greater spiritual power through the priesthood in the home
  • Seek affirmation from the proper sources (not worldly ones)
  • Do our duty
  • Study the scriptures
  • Be fully obedient to the commandments
  • Look for early warning signals by considering children’s reactions to gospel conversations
  • Beware of lust

Warnings:
  • Too many men are living below their privileges
  • There will be times when all that stands between families and Satan is the power of the priesthood.
  • Spiritual decline starts from offense taken.
  • Those who reject things of righteousness after having known them become worse than though they had never known these things.
  • Move to higher ground; violence and vandalism is not an appropriate way to act in disagreement.
  • It is not enough for the youth to do Personal Progress and Duty to God on their own; we must participate too.
  • A distraction doesn’t have to be evil to be effective.
  • How we react to our difficulties will determine our success and happiness.
  • Avoid complaining and murmuring in our trials.
  • Many blessings are missed by applying worldy judgment to a spiritual decision.
  • The testimony of earthquakes and disasters follows the testimony of the prophets.
  • We can’t be casual in how we prepare the youth.
What are your impressions of conference? What stuck out to you?