Thursday, September 27, 2012 2 comments

Blogging with Real Intent

I’ve recently been honored with an invitation to contribute to a new LDS website starting up that promises to be quite AMAZING.  It’s called Real Intent and it will feature various faithful voices from the LDS blogosphere sharing their thoughts on what it means to be a dedicated Latter-day Saint today.   From what I’ve seen behind the scenes of these writers and what they have to say, you can expect posts that are smart, balanced, exploring, and inspiring.  I’m so excited for this!  Go and take a look at Real Intent. (And definitely add it to your feed or your bloglist!)

Joseph Smith Sr.’s dream of the tree of life

I recently found a biography of Joseph Smith Sr. (father of the prophet Joseph Smith) that had some interesting stories in it, one of which was an account of a dream that he had in Lebanon, New Hampshire in 1811:

I thought I was traveling in an open, desolate field, which appeared to be very barren. As I was thus traveling, the thought suddenly came to me that I had better stop and reflect upon what I was doing before I went any further. So I asked myself, “What motive can I have in traveling here, and what place can this be?” My guide, who was by my side, as before, said, “This is the desolate world, but travel on.” The road was so broad and barren, that I wondered why I should travel in it; for said I to myself, “Broad is the road and wide is the gate, that leads to death, and many there be that walk therein; but narrow is the way, and strait is the gate that leads to everlasting life, and few there be that go in thereat.” Traveling a short distance further, I came to a narrow path. This path I entered, and when I had traveled a little way in it, I beheld a beautiful stream of water, which ran from the east to the west. Of this stream I could see neither the source nor the mouth; but as far as my eyes could extend I could see a rope, running along the bank of it, about as high as a man could reach, and beyond me, was a low, but very pleasant valley, in which stood a tree, such as I had never seen before. It was exceedingly handsome, insomuch that I looked upon it with wonder and admiration. Its beautiful branches spread themselves somewhat like an umbrella, and it bore a kind of fruit, in shape much like a chestnut bur, and as white as snow, or, if possible, whiter. I gazed upon the same with considerable interest, and as I was doing so, the burs or shells commenced opening and shedding their particles, or the fruit which they contained, which was of dazzling whiteness. I drew near, and began to eat of it, and I found it delicious beyond description. As I was eating, I said in my heart, “ I cannot eat this alone, I must bring my wife and children, that they may partake with me.” Accordingly, I went and brought my family which consisted of my wife and seven children, and we all commenced eating, and praising God for this blessing. We were exceedingly happy, insomuch that our joy could not easily be expressed. While thus engaged, I beheld a spacious building standing opposite the valley which we were in, and it appeared to reach to the very heavens. It was full of doors and windows, and they were all filled with people, who were very finely dressed. When these people observed us in the low valley, under the tree, they pointed the finger of scorn at us, and treated us with all manner of disrespect and contempt. But their contumely we utterly disregarded. I presently turned to my guide, and inquired of him the meaning of the fruit that was so delicious. He told me that it was the pure love of God, shed abroad in the hearts of all those who love him, and keep his commandments. He then commanded me to go and bring the rest of my children. I told him that we were all there. “No,” he replied, “look yonder, you have two more, and you must bring them also.” Upon raising my eyes, I saw two small children, standing some distance off. I immediately went to them, and brought them to the tree; upon which they commenced eating with the rest, and we all rejoiced together. The more we ate, the more we seemed to desire, until we even got down on our knees, and scooped it up, eating it by double handfuls. After feasting in this manner a short time, I asked my guide what was the meaning of the spacious building which I saw. He replied, “It is Babylon, it is Babylon, and it must fall. The people in the doors and windows are the inhabitants thereof, who scorn and despise the Saints of God, because of their humility.” I soon awoke, clapping my hands together for joy.  (Joseph Smith, Sr.: First Patriarch to the LDS Church, Appendix II, p228-229)

It is amazing to me how similar this dream of Joseph Smith Sr’s corresponds with Lehi’s dream as recorded in the Book of Mormon.   And to think he had this when his son Joseph Smith Jr. was about six years old…

Can you imagine what Joseph Smith Sr. must have thought and felt when he read the printed Book of Mormon for the first time and discovered a dream very similar to his had been dreamt and recorded by the ancient prophet Lehi?  What a confirmation of faith that must have been.  (What would it be like to have one of your dreams canonized like that?) And too, it would seem to locate Joseph Smith Sr. at the beginning of a new gospel dispensation, just as Lehi was the beginning of whole new offshoot of Israel.

I think there are a few principles that can be distilled from this.
First, that the Lord can give visions in dreams to those whom he chooses. 
Second, that the Lord can give similar dreams to different people.
Third, the Lord has ways of preparing His servants (and even their relatives) for what is He is going to do, even years before it happens.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012 6 comments

All the pride that will be humbled when the Lord comes

12 For the day of the Lord of Hosts soon cometh upon all nations, yea, upon every one; yea, upon the proud and lofty, and upon every one who is lifted up, and he shall be brought low.
13 Yea, and the day of the Lord shall come upon all the cedars of Lebanon, for they are high and lifted up; and upon all the oaks of Bashan;
 14 And upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills, and upon all the nations which are lifted up, and upon every people;
 15 And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall;
 16 And upon all the ships of the sea, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures.
 17 And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low; and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.  (2 Nephi 12:12-17)

In this block of scriptures, Nephi quotes Isaiah who uses imagery to describe the types of pride that will be humbled when the Lord comes.  It takes some thought to recognize what Isaiah refers to, but knowledge of gospel symbolism is the key. 

“upon all the cedars of Lebanon, for they are high and lifted up; and upon all the oaks of Bashan” (v13) – Trees are green, and green things often represent life, particularly spiritual life, so these trees could represent church members.  We church members can become proud of our spiritual growth and our place in the kingdom of God.  The Second Coming will be a shock to those of us who are self-righteous because we will realize how holy Christ really is and how much greater than us He is.

“upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills, and upon all the nations which are lifted up, and upon every people” (v14) – Mountains here represent continents and large nations.  This shows us national pride will be humbled. 

“upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall” (v15) – From our modern perspective, high towers and walls could represent pride of building construction and engineering pride.  From the ancient perspective, high towers and fenced walls were representative of a city and its ability to withstand attack, so this could be how Isaiah shows that civic pride and military pride will be humbled by the Lord at His coming.

“And upon all the ships of the sea, and upon all the ships of Tarshish” (v16) – Ships represented both travel and trade, so Isaiah was showing that pride of travel would be humbled, along with business pride and economic pride.

We see from these verses that there are all different types of pride and the Lord finds none of it good.  Verse 17 ends with this important thought—“the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.”  I suppose if we want to prepare, we should cultivate and practice our humility now, huh?
Sunday, September 23, 2012 2 comments

That compass yourselves about with sparks

When I was looking at my blog’s analytics recently to see what kind of search terms were used to find my blog, I noticed that one search term used was “that compass yourselves about with sparks, meaning, Isaiah.”  

I can totally understand why someone would search for an explanation for that line of Isaiah.  It took me a lot of thought to figure out what was meant by that imagery and what gospel lesson it was teaching.  That image of someone surrounding themselves with sparks is the negative side of a contrast that Isaiah is trying to set up in these verses:
10 ¶Who is among you that feareth the Lord,
that obeyeth the voice of his servant,
that walketh in darkness, and hath no light?
let him trust in the name of the Lord,
and stay upon his God.
11 Behold, all ye that kindle a fire,
that compass yourselves about with sparks:
walk in the light of your fire,
and in the sparks that ye have kindled.
This shall ye have of mine hand;
ye shall lie down in sorrow.
(Isaiah 50:10-11)
Verse 10 is the positive side of the contrast (those who fear the Lord) and verse 11 is the negative side (those who don't fear the Lord)

In verse 10, Isaiah asks a rhetorical question—“Who among you that fears the Lord and obeys his servants (the prophets) walks without light?”  It is sort of a loaded question because for those of us who follow the Lord and listen to the prophets, there should be plenty of gospel light in our lives showing us what we should do.  It is like walking in the day in the light of the sun/Son.

But of course, it isn’t always that simple.  Sometimes there are very dark times in our lives even with that prophecy and revelation.  To those of us who are in this situation, Isaiah says, “let him trust in the name of the Lord and stay (depend) upon God.”  We have to get through those dark times by trusting the Lord.

How about verse 11?  If gospel light comes from above as revelation, what then is meant by kindling a fire?   It means to manufacture our own way to see by, to make our own rules to live by, instead of trying to live by God’s commandments.  (This is the creation of worldly principles, which are not nearly so bright.)  And compassing ourselves about with sparks?   “Compassing [oneself] about with sparks” describes a person with flint and steel in hand, banging those fire-producing materials together and trying to see where to go in the very brief light that is produced by the little flashes of sparks.  They bang that flint and steel all around them to try to see where they are.  That is kind of like trying to use debate to find the true path.  In debate, you collide two viewpoints together in hope that some light will be generated about what the truth is. 

But what is the end result?  “Ye shall lie down in sorrow.”  At the end of their lives, those who have lived by worldly principles will lie down to their graves with regrets.  They will also lie down in sorrow at the end of the day without the hope of Christ.

I like these verses because they show that even in dark times, people who trust the Lord have more light in their lives than people who depend on worldly wisdom. 

Friday, September 21, 2012 1 comments

Pre-mortal memories will return

And when Nephi had brought forth the records, and laid them before him, he [Jesus] cast his eyes upon them and said:
Verily I say unto you, I commanded my servant Samuel, the Lamanite, that he should testify unto this people, that at the day that the Father should glorify his name in me that there were many saints who should arise from the dead, and should appear unto many, and should minister unto them. And he said unto them: Was it not so?  (3 Nephi 23:8-9)
Reading this lately I was taken by surprise by something I hadn’t recognized before – that the resurrected Christ knew and remembered what He had commanded His servants to do before His own mortal life.  It seems that He got all those pre-mortal memories back.  Who knows whether it happened after His death or after His resurrection, but it happened.  And I think that means we’ll get ours back too!  Sweet!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012 2 comments

D&C 101 and the issue of persecution

D&C 101 is a great section that addresses the issue of persecution and there are a bunch of different ideas in it with different emphases indicating that it is part of how the Saints are to work through the problem of evil.

1. Affliction is suffered to come upon the Saints in consequence of transgressions. (v2)
2. The Saints must be chastened and tried. (v4) (“Chastened” and “tried” are not synonymous.)
3. When the Saints are slow to listen to God, He is slow to listen to them in their afflictions. (v7-8)
4. Zion may be scattered without being “removed out of her place.” (v17) (Evidently gathering is not the same as “chosen,” and scattered is not the same as “cut off.”)
5. In this world our joy is not full, but in Christ our joy is full. (v36)
6. Care not for the body, but for the life of the soul. (v37)
7. When the salt has lost its savor, it is only good to be cast out and trod underfoot. (v39-40)
8. Those that exalt themselves shall be abased. (v42)
9. The parable of the vineyard and the slothful servants who were commanded to build a tower to protect it and then murmured until the enemy came and destroyed the place. (v43-54)
10. Importune for redress according to the law so everyone may be accountable and fully responsible for their own sins. (v76-78)
11. Keep taking grievances to judge, governor, then president, and if no help comes, then those wicked stewards will be cut off and the Lord will vex the nation. (v81-90)
12. The Lord will bring to pass His strange act and His strange work so that man may discern between the wicked and the righteous and be left without excuse. (v93-95)

The variety of ideas here indicates how well the Lord knew the complexity of the situation, that both righteous and wicked were suffering under the hands of other wicked people, for a variety of reasons, both deserved and undeserved. There is something in this revelation that would resonate with just about everybody.
Sunday, September 16, 2012 2 comments

The eternal wages of sowing the gospel

35 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.
36 And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.
37 And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.  (John 4:35-38)

Here Jesus spoke to His disciples just before the people of Sychar came to see Jesus at the recommendation of the woman at the well.  The disciples are about to reap many souls ready to hear the truth when they didn’t have to do any searching for them or sowing gospel seeds.

I really like verse 36.  “[H]e that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.”   The first part we know; the reapers receive a great blessing of joy in the eternities for bringing souls to repentance, but the second part gets ignored, and it has a promise that I never noticed before-- “that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.”  That says to me that someday in the next life, the news will get out to all the people who sowed gospel seeds that they had a part in the bringing someone to salvation.   That means I will get to find out who got reaped.  I may find there are souls I seeded without even knowing it.
I will get to find out how all the gospel seeds I planted bore fruit and what part my influence played in the grand and gripping story of someone’s conversion.   With the person who reaped and the other people who planted seeds, I will get to rejoice that our work paid off.  

We know from D&C 18:15 that if we labor all our days crying repentance and bring only one soul to Christ, our joy will be great, but often the reaping may be far enough from the sowing that we don’t get to participate in that joy in this life, and others reap in our place.  Other times we may be the reapers of other peoples’ work to sow gospel seeds.

I like the promise of John 4:36 because I have been mostly a seed planter, not getting to see the reaping of souls.  We seeders occasionally wonder if we are doing any good.  Someday I’ll get to know.  Someday you’ll get to know too.  In the meantime, we sow.

Friday, September 14, 2012 2 comments

Link to papers on the Joseph Smith Translation

You may have noticed that a number of my posts recently are focusing on the differences between the King James Version of the Bible and the Joseph Smith Translation in an attempt to draw out the doctrinal implications and significance of the JST for us. 

In connection with that, I just wanted to let you know that the BYU Religious Studies Center's webpage has, in their online publications, the text of the book The Joseph Smith Translation: The Restoration of Plain and Precious Things, a collection of papers presented at a symposium on various aspects of the JST back in 1984.  I am linking to that page for you.  You will notice in the left sidebar are listed the chapters of the book that link to the text, so you can read it online.  I've browsed a few chapters that looked especially interested to me and I found them quite good.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I have so far.

Strive to enter the gate

 23 Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them,
 24 ¶Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.  (Luke 13:23-24)
I stumbled across this verse in my study and I noticed there seemed to be a difference between “strive” and “seek.”  There has to be, otherwise a striver entering the gate would do no better than a seeker, who might not make it in.  To me, one who strives is a warrior, whereas one who seeks is only a searcher.  A searcher may be turned away by opposition, but a warrior will grapple with opposition to accomplish the objective.  The warrior is trained for that fight, but a searcher isn’t.  A searcher doesn’t necessarily know where to go, but a warrior knows where to go (having been previously instructed) and does what it takes to get there.

What is the strait gate?  When I think of the strait gate, I automatically think of baptism, but then I also remember that the gate is the way to eternal life, and Christ says He is the gate, so we have to follow His example, believe in Him, repent to become pure like Him, and do what He did (baptism and more).  Sure, we have to search out knowledge of how to do that and perfect our efforts, but mostly we will be battling to accomplish the objective of entering the strait gate.  We will battle every day against the world and against our natural man.  Sometimes the battle will be less obvious, and sometimes the battle will be just to maintain our consistent efforts.

I have to fight to show greater charity, to subdue my occasional rebellious impulses against duty, to squelch impatience that would lead to rudeness, to keep from wasting my time, to keep from getting frustrated at myself when I don’t progress as fast as I think I should, and more.  Sometimes I have to fight myself to do my calling and my visiting teaching.  (Yes, I love it when I’m in the middle of it, but occasionally I have to fight to get myself to plan and prepare for the calling or to make the calls to set up visiting appointments.)  I have to fight to humble myself to repent.  And I love variety so much that I have to fight to be consistent. 

The above verses almost have a tone of pessimism about the number of people who will make it, but the neat thing about these verses is that they show us that Christ knows it requires a fight to enter that strait gate and He’s not hiding that important knowledge from us.  He wants us to have the most realistic view of what is required so that we don’t get discouraged and give up when we discover striving and fighting is required so much, or think that there is something wrong with us because we have to fight.  He wants us to make it and He will help us.  We will be able to look back at all the times we fought to do what’s right and we will see how He helped.

In what ways are you striving to enter the strait gate?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012 5 comments

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord

21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven.
 22 Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works?
 23 And then will I profess unto them: I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (3 Nephi 14:21-23)

This scripture can alternatively soothe and discomfit us, depending on the elements that we focus on.

Jesus uses the phrase “Lord, Lord” to encapsulate the pleas for entry into heaven by those who believe they are entitled to a place there, but who have fallen short in some important respects in a way that blindsides them at that crucial moment.

These pleaders argue their case that they deserve admittance on the grounds of:
·      Prophesying “in thy name” (bearing testimony—the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy)
·      Casting out devils “in thy name” (bringing others to repentance)
·      Doing many wonderful works “in thy name” (doing good words and even miracles)
Their argument sounds pretty convincing, yes?  That they do all these things in Christ’s name makes me think these could even be church members who have used the priesthood.

The terrifying reply comes back, “I never knew you.”  What?!  Never knew these people when they were doing all those things in Christ’s name?  From the very beginning they were off track?  How can this be?

“[D]epart from me, ye that work iniquity.”  For the longest time, I thought Jesus meant that these people were doing bad things that they thought were good things.  I recently realized that Jesus meant that these people had never REPENTED.  They knew they could repent, they knew all things should be done in Christ’s name, they knew they should do good,…. But they never actually repented of their sins in the first place..or afterward either.  This is why Christ says He never knew them.  The atonement is meant to blot out our sins and reconcile us to God, to make us at-one with Him, so that we know Him as we become like Him.  But if we never repent, then we are yet estranged from Him and He won’t know us.  (I think that “knowing” is in the sense of “accepting someone to be what is claimed, accepting them and acknowledging them” as He would one who had finally become reconciled with Him.)  He knows whether we’ve repented or not.  We can’t fool Him, we only deceive ourselves.  

Another thing we learn from these verses is that the good things that we do will not blot out our sins, as some believe.  (Yes, there are people who think that the good things they do will cancel out or balance out the bad things they’ve done.)  The truth is, only Christ can blot out our sins, and only when we repent of them.

Too often we may read these verses and say, “It’s those people in those other Christian denominations who are workers of iniquity; they think they are doing things in Christ’s name, but they aren’t.  We aren’t doing iniquity.”   (Do you ever comfort yourself this way?  I know I have..)  The problem with this line of thought is that it prevents us from remembering that all are sinners except Christ; ALL have committed sins.  So if we think it is those other people over there who have sinned and not us, our own sins remain and we won’t be freed from them.  We will be like the Pharisee in the parable:

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 18:9-14)

I think the deeper message that Jesus was trying to get across was that all the acts of spiritual discipline and discipleship without sincere repentance will be insufficient to save us.  Yes, those acts are important—every tree that doesn’t give good fruit will be hewn down—but by themselves, they are insufficient to save.

I think sometimes repentance is a tricky thing to learn about in our church.  I don’t mean it is hard to learn about it in theory, but I mean learning about it in practice.  When I think of how well I learn by example, I realize that I don’t often get to see visible examples of repentance.  (You may be saying, “Well duh; repentance is very much a matter of the heart.”)  How often do we hear people share with us the experience they had as they repented?  I think our cultural teachings against confessing our sins publicly have made it so that it is difficult to even get an idea of who else in our church knows how to repent or knows what things we should we repent of, besides the serious sins that require confession to the bishop. 

In My line-upon-line education on the Atonement , I talk about some of the things I’ve learned about repenting and applying the Atonement.  Will you share with me your experiences with learning how to repent?  (No need to share details of the sins..) 

Monday, September 10, 2012 2 comments

The sons of Sceva are overcome

13 ¶Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.
 14 And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.
 15 And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?
 16 And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
 17 And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.
 18 And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.
 19 Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.
 20 So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed. (Acts 19:13-20)
The two incidents in these verses—the failed exorcism and the book burning—are usually not discussed together, but I suspect they are related to each other.

That these vagabond Jews decide to use the name of Jesus to try to cast out evil spirits shows that they heard of the power of Jesus’s name and they believe in it.  It is interesting that their father was a priest.  They could have been priests too, but we don’t know.  

That the evil spirit refuses to recognize them as having any authority over him shows that simply using the name of Jesus without authority to back it up will not work in the realm of spirits, but will actually be detrimental.  The evil spirit indicated he knew both Jesus and Paul had power over him, which shows that there is a hierarchy in the spirit world.

And then, when the man with the evil spirit overcame all seven of the vagabond Jews that tried to cast it out, that demonstrated that evil is not to be trifled with.  This must have been what most impressed the people who heard about it.  If a man with an evil spirit could overcome seven men, then you must not muck about with evil in the least degree, as it can destroy you.  Thus, they became determined to forsake evil in all its forms, having learned the dangerous consequences of being overcome.  So, members of the church (“them that believed”) confessed and forsook their sins, and many others decided to forsake their “curious arts” and burned all their books relating thereto. 

This is one of the reasons why we do not toy with the occult in any way, whether with séances and mediums, or with Ouija boards or fortune telling or any of that.  Nor should we play with any other kind of evil.

I can’t help but point out that although the evil spirit may have overcome the vagabond Jews, because the people who heard about the incident were willing to repent and forsake their evil deeds, ultimately the word of God prevailed in this story!  Yaaaaaaaaaay!

Saturday, September 8, 2012 3 comments

He that is born of God: KJV versus JST

 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not;
but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself,
and that wicked one toucheth him not. (1 John 5:18)

We know that whosoever is born of God continueth not in sin;
but he that is begotten of God and keepeth himself,
that wicked one overcometh him not.  (JST 1 John 5:18)

There are some interesting differences between the King James Version and the Joseph Smith Translation that should clarify for us what we can expect as we are born of God.

The KJV says that those who are born of God sin not, but the JST changes this to say that those who are born of God do not continue in sin.  This shows us that being born of God does not mean that we won’t sin, but it means that we will not keep sinning.  This provides for us to have learning experiences and realize we have been sinning so we can repent.  Most (if not all) of us have mistaken traditions of nurture or mistakes of our fallen natures that we have to discover and root out, and being born of God doesn't automatically take care of that for us. 

The KJV says that those begotten of God keep themselves and are untouched by Satan, but the JST changes this to say that those who are begotten of God and who keep themselves (from sin) are not overcome by Satan.  This tells us that when we are born of God, we do not automatically keep ourselves from sin.  This implies we have to work at it a bit (even if we have no desire to sin).  It also tells us that if we are born of God and we keep ourselves from sin, we will not be overcome by Satan.  That implies that Satan will still touch us (which I take to mean we will still be tempted), but that he won’t succeed at getting us to sin.

I think this bit of JST gives us the comforting doctrine that being tempted does not mean that there is something wrong with us.  Part of mortality is suffering temptation.  Even Jesus suffered temptation (though He gave no heed to it).  Being born of God and keeping ourselves from sin will keep us from being overcome, and that is important in these last days when iniquity abounds.  (See Joseph Smith Matthew for extra on this—He who is not overcome the same shall be saved.)

I also think the JST is important because it gives us the most realistic view of what we are up against, but it also gives us hope that it is possible to be born of God, to keep ourselves from sin, and to overcome the temptations of Satan.
Thursday, September 6, 2012 0 comments

Industry and diligence

Labor Day (Monday) was truly a day of labor for my husband and I.  I did a deep clean of the house, including vacuuming under and behind the furniture.  My husband worked on the wire harness of my car, worked on the yard, and worked on epoxying the gaps of one of our back porch posts.  We took some time to go shopping for a new rug and to get more supplies for further epoxying efforts.  Essentially, we wore ourselves out.

What? You say Labor Day is to celebrate worker's unions, not to actually work?  How did I miss this?!

Joking aside, I've been studying principles of industry and diligence recently, and I thought I'd share with you some of the cool scriptures I distilled from digging around the Topical Guide.  I appreciate these scriptures because far too often, I start projects and then don't finish.  (Heck, I have a folder on my hard drive full of posts for this blog that I started and didn't finish!)   I have to be very careful what projects I start and be willing to work on them.  The following scriptures I would compare to a nice swift kick in the pants in the loving-est way from Mom when we don't feel like going to school or doing our homework.


Thou shalt not be idle; for he that is idle shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer. (D&C 42:42)

Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; (D&C 58:27)

Set in order your houses; keep slothfulness and uncleanness far from you. (D&C 90:18)

And again, thou shalt not be proud in thy heart; let all thy garments be plain, and their beauty the beauty of the work of thine own hands; (D&C 42:40)

For they have been faithful over many things, and have done well inasmuch as they have not sinned. (D&C 70:17)

They that remain, and are pure in heart, shall return, and come to their inheritances, they and their children, with songs of everlasting joy, to build up the waste places of Zion— (D&C 101:18)

And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. (Isaiah 61:4)


Thou shalt be diligent in preserving what thou hast, that thou mayest be a wise steward; for it is the free gift of the Lord thy God, and thou art his steward. (D&C 136:27)

The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute. (Proverbs 12:24)

The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious. (Proverbs 12:27)

He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich. (Proverbs 10:4)

The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain. (Proverbs 15:19)

And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order. (Mosiah 4:27)

Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength and means provided to enable you to translate; but be diligent unto the end. (D&C 10:4)

And now, my beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God. (Moroni 9:6)

Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall (2 Peter 1:10)

And let all things be done in cleanliness before me. (D&C 42:41)  (Doing all things with cleanness certainly adds a level of care that requires diligence, yes?)

Let every man be diligent in all things. And the idler shall not have place in the church, except he repent and mend his ways. (D&C 75:29)

Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence. (D&C 107:99)

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)

Diligent in the word of God

For behold, it came to pass after my father had made an end of speaking the words of his dream, and also of exhorting them to all diligence, he spake unto them concerning the Jews— (1 Nephi 10:2)  
 (Laman and Lemuel seem to have had lacked diligence too, along with their other problems..)

28 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them.
 29 And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it. And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things. (1 Nephi 16:28-29)

And Ammon did preach unto the people of king Lamoni; and it came to pass that he did teach them all things concerning things pertaining to righteousness. And he did exhort them daily, with all diligence; and they gave heed unto his word, and they were zealous for keeping the commandments of God. (Alma 21:23)

And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious…and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst. (Alma 32:42)

Yea, and there was continual peace among them, and exceedingly great prosperity in the church because of their heed and diligence which they gave unto the word of God, which was declared unto them…(Alma 49:30)

Diligent protection

And it came to pass that when Moroni saw this, and also saw that the Lamanites were coming into the borders of the land, he was exceedingly wroth because of the stubbornness of those people whom he had labored with so much diligence to preserve.. (Alma 51:14)

Rewards for diligence

All victory and glory is brought to pass unto you through your diligence, faithfulness, and prayers of faith. (D&C 103:36)

And they shall also be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time—they that are faithful and diligent before me. (D&C 59:4)

And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come. (D&C 130:19)

14 Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld.
 15 Now, this commandment I give unto my servants for their benefit while they remain, for a manifestation of my blessings upon their heads, and for a reward of their diligence and for their security; (D&C 70:14-15)
Being equal in temporal things is the reward given to the Lord’s servants’ diligence.

And again, verily thus saith the Lord: Let the work of my temple, and all the works which I have appointed unto you, be continued on and not cease; and let your diligence, and your perseverance, and patience, and your works be redoubled, and you shall in nowise lose your reward, saith the Lord of Hosts. And if they persecute you, so persecuted they the prophets and righteous men that were before you. For all this there is a reward in heaven. (D&C 127:4)

 There's nothing like the feeling of satisfaction you get at the end of the day when you have been diligent at whatever work you did.  I know I felt pretty satisfied at the end of my "Labor Day."  Will you share with me a time when you felt the blessings of your diligence? 
Tuesday, September 4, 2012 8 comments

Jesus's comparison of Noah’s day, Lot’s day, and the day of the 2nd coming with JST

26 And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.
 27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.
 28 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;
 29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.
 30 Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.
 31 In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.
 32 Remember Lot’s wife.
 33 Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.
 34 I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.
 35 Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
 36 Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.  And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord, shall they be taken.
37  And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is gathered; or, in other words, whithersoever the saints are gathered, thither will the eagles be gathered together; or, thither will the remainder be gathered together.
38  This he spake, signifying the gathering of his saints; and of angels descending and gathering the remainder unto them; the one from the bed, the other from the grinding, and the other from the field, whithersoever he listeth.
39  For verily there shall be new heavens, and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
40  And there shall be no unclean thing; for the earth becoming old, even as a garment, having waxed in corruption, wherefore it vanisheth away, and the footstool remaineth sanctified, cleansed from all sin.
(Luke 17:26-27, JST verses 36-40 added)

I have a number of thoughts on these verses. 

First, I notice that when Jesus compares the days before the Second Coming to the days of Noah and Lot, He says that the very day Noah entered the ark and the very day Lot left Sodom, destruction hit the wicked.  I think this makes the point that as soon as the righteous are taken to safety, the wicked will no longer escape destruction. 

Second, it is curious that although we know the days of Noah and the city of Sodom were wicked, we see that very innocuous activities are attributed to the wicked in verses 27-28.
They were:

  • Eating and drinking
  • Marrying and giving in marriage
  • Buying and selling
  • Planting
  • Building

We might gain some insight if we ask ourselves some questions.  What were these people eating and drinking?  Who was marrying and giving in marriage?  What was bought and sold and on what terms?  What was planted?  What was built? 
We can only conclude that their wickedness was so great that it was even corrupting those very basic activities of life, and that it was completely ignored and defended with the claim that they were good people too who did normal things just like anyone else.  Yet normalized wickedness is not excusable just because it is pervasive throughout society.

Verses 34-36 tell us some very interesting things about the time close to the Second Coming.  They show how mixed the righteous will be with the wicked.  The image of two men in one bed (ignoring modern connotations) with one taken and the other left conveys the idea of how there will be very righteous people and very wicked people in the same household, essentially living cheek by jowl until the righteous are separated.  (No doubt they will grate on each other.)  The image of two women grinding together and two men in the same field evokes the idea that the righteous and wicked will be working right alongside each other until the day when the righteous are separated.  But that separation will come.

The JST tells us how that separation will come—angels will take the righteous out from among the wicked and gather them together with the main body of the saints, and then will come the destruction of the wicked, as we know from the parable of the wheat and the tares. 

Now, I’ve saved the verses 31-33 to talk about last because to me they seem a little tricky. 

 31 In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.
 32 Remember Lot’s wife.
 33 Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.

When I consider that the surrounding verses are about the days of the Second Coming, these verses at first seem out of place.  Verses 31-32 reminds me of words Christ said elsewhere about how the former day saints were to escape the destruction of Jerusalem that occurred in 70 A.D., and it may be that those words were only applicable then and not applicable to the Second Coming.  But... it struck me that they may also apply to the days just before the Second Coming when the angels come to take the righteous to safety.  It is a matter of how we envision this rescue.  If it is something like “the Rapture” that Christians always talk about, it doesn’t make sense. (I don’t want to say that being caught up into heaven isn’t going to happen because there are some scriptures that say that it will.)  But if it is something like how Lot was warned to leave Sodom, then verse 31-32 make a lot of sense.   Do we envision angels coming down and just grabbing us and carrying us away to the refuge of the saints?  (It’s kind of a nice thought, isn’t it?)  But ask yourself this—will angels take people who are not willing to go?  No, I don’t think so; the Lord respects our agency, and so angels must too.  Which means it will be something like how Lot was saved—a warning brought, directions given, choices to go (or stay or return) made, immediate travel required with almost no preparation or supplies…  It is another physical gathering comparable to that which took place at the beginning of this dispensation, but with incredible urgency, and since we still have the New Jerusalem to build, we know where the gathering will be.

Joseph Smith Matthew says something similar:

37 And whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived, for the Son of Man shall come, and he shall send his angels before him with the great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together the remainder of his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other….
41 But as it was in the days of Noah, so it shall be also at the coming of the Son of Man;
 42 For it shall be with them, as it was in the days which were before the flood; for until the day that Noah entered into the ark they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage;
 43 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be.
 44 Then shall be fulfilled that which is written, that in the last days, two shall be in the field, the one shall be taken, and the other left;
 45 Two shall be grinding at the mill, the one shall be taken, and the other left; (Joseph Smith Matthew 1:37,41-45)

In D&C 63 we also find this:

53 These things are the things that ye must look for… even in the day of the coming of the Son of Man.
 54 And until that hour there will be foolish virgins among the wise; and at that hour cometh an entire separation of the righteous and the wicked; and in that day will I send mine angels to pluck out the wicked and cast them into unquenchable fire. (D&C 63:53-54)

That “entire separation” is something we haven’t seen quite yet, but I believe it will happen as promised.D&C 63 highlights the flip side from the righteous being saved.

You may be wondering whether to believe this or not.  You may ask yourself, “Why haven’t we heard about this in Sunday School?”  Well, Sunday School has very limited time and has to get through each of the standard works in only 52 weeks, so they try to use the time available on the most important principles.  Stuff not discussed may be good to learn (and the interest of time only prevents it from coming up) or bad to learn (and would never be mentioned anyway).  Instead, the responsibility is on us to study more.  President Harold B. Lee spoke in conference in October 1972 about places in the scriptures we can study to learn in plainness what the events will be.  He mentioned Matthew 24 (and Joseph Smith Matthew), Doctrine and Covenants 45, 101, 133, and 38.  These sources are reliable with unquestionable motives. (This blog, on the other hand, is just my own opinion and not official or authoritative to any extent.)

Now, back to Luke 17.  After we are adjured to remember Lot’s wife, we are warned:

Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. (Luke 17:33)

Considering the surrounding block of verse is about saving the saints, this verse really can muddy the waters.  While we’ve been told how we can save our lives, here we are told that if we seek to save our lives we will lose it!   I think that it is meant to refer  to those difficult days leading up to the Second Coming.  It seems to be a reminder that there is more than one way to save your life, and saving our spiritual life by staying pure regardless of the consequences matters more than saving our bodies from death.  Some saints may be saved at the Second Coming, and other saints may be saved through martyrdom.