Sunday, March 31, 2013 0 comments

Resurrection 101

The Church's Guide to the Scriptures has some really good basic information about resurrection strongly supported by scriptures references.  I thought I'd post it, though with changes to the order of the scripture reference list that follows to create more continuity of thought. 
The reuniting of the spirit body with the physical body of flesh and bones after death. After resurrection, the spirit and body will never again be separated, and the person will become immortal. Every person born on earth will be resurrected because Jesus Christ overcame death (1 Cor. 15:20–22).

Jesus Christ was the first person to be resurrected on this earth (Acts 26:23; Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5). The New Testament gives ample evidence that Jesus rose with His physical body: His tomb was empty, He ate fish and honey, He had a body of flesh and bones, people touched Him, and the angels said He had risen (Mark 16:1–6; Luke 24:1–12, 36–43; John 20:1–18). Latter-day revelation confirms the reality of the resurrection of Christ and of all mankind (Alma 11:40–45; 40; 3 Ne. 11:1–17; D&C 76; Moses 7:62).

All people will not be resurrected to the same glory (1 Cor. 15:39–42; D&C 76:89–98), nor will all be resurrected at the same time (1 Cor. 15:22–23; Alma 40:8; D&C 76:64–65, 85; 88:96–102). Many Saints were resurrected after Christ’s resurrection (Matt. 27:52). The righteous will be resurrected before the wicked and will come forth in the first resurrection (1 Thes. 4:16); the unrepentant sinners will come forth in the last resurrection (Rev. 20:5–13; D&C 76:85).

Christ layeth down his life and taketh it again that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead: 2 Ne. 2:8; ( Mosiah 13:35; Mosiah 15:20; Alma 33:22; Alma 40:3; Hel. 14:15; )
The Lord is risen: Luke 24:34;
I am the resurrection and the life: John 11:25;
A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have: Luke 24:39;
The Twelve Apostles taught that Jesus had risen: Acts 1:21–22; ( Acts 2:32; Acts 3:15; Acts 4:33; )

Without resurrection, we would become subject to Satan: 2 Ne. 9:6–9;
Alma explained the state of souls between death and resurrection: Alma 40:6, 11–24;

Though this body be destroyed, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Job 19:26; ( Moses 5:10; )
I will open your graves, and cause you to come up: Ezek. 37:12;
The resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul: D&C 88:14–16;
In Christ shall all be made alive: 1 Cor. 15:1–22;
Resurrection will pass upon all men: 2 Ne. 9:22;
They shall rise from the dead and shall not die after: D&C 63:49;
The dead in Christ shall rise first: 1 Thes. 4:16;
[At Christ’s resurrection] Graves were opened, and many bodies arose: Matt. 27:52–53; ( 3 Ne. 23:9; )
At the Lord’s [second] coming, the dead which died in Christ will come forth: D&C 29:13; ( D&C 45:45–46; D&C 88:97–98; D&C 133:56; )
Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: Rev. 20:6;
They that knew no law shall have part in this first resurrection: D&C 45:54;
The wicked remain as though there had been no redemption, except for the loosing of the bands of death: Alma 11:41–45;
Weep especially for those who have not hope of a glorious resurrection: D&C 42:45;

Angels who are resurrected beings have bodies of flesh and bones: D&C 129:1;
Spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy: D&C 93:33;
Whatsoever intelligence we attain in this life will rise with us in the resurrection: D&C 130:18–19;

The resurrection gives us hope of life after mortality.  I have great hope in the resurrection. I believe the witnesses of the apostles and prophets.  I know of at least one current apostle who has seen Jesus and that also gives me great comfort.  Happy Easter!

What the witnesses of Christ’s resurrection teach us about resurrected bodies

As I was studying Christ’s resurrection to teach a lesson about it about a year an a half ago, I realized that all the witnesses of the resurrection are meant to give us plenty of information about the reality of Christ’s power over death and what a resurrected body is like.  Let’s look at some verses.
¶And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
10 Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me. (Matt. 28:9-10)
Christ has feet.
He can stand.
He can talk.
13 ¶And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs.
14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened.
15 And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.
16 But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.
17 And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?
18 And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?
19 And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:
20 And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.
21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.
22 Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre;
23 And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive.
24 And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.
25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:
26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?
27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
28 And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.
29 But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.
30 And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.
31 And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.
32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? (Luke 24:13-32)
Christ can walk.
He can talk.
He seems to look like any other person; somehow he can suppress his celestial glory.
He senses emotions.
He can chastise foolishness and unbelief.
He can quote from the scriptures and expound them and teach.
He can hold bread.
He still says prayers.
He can vanish from sight.
He wield the power of the Spirit to cause hearts to burn from the truth of His words.
33 And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,
34 Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.
35 And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.
36 ¶And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.
38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.
41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?
42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.
43 And he took it, and did eat before them.
44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
48 And ye are witnesses of these things.
49 ¶And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
50 ¶And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.
51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. (Luke 24:33-51)
He can appear suddenly in a startling manner without having to use doors.
He has flesh and bones; he can be handled.
He can eat.
He remembers what he said to people before he died.
He can bless people.
He can levitate and ascend into heaven.
19 ¶Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
 20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.
 21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.
 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:
 23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.
 24 ¶But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
 25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
 26 ¶And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
 27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
 28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
 29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. (John 20:19-31)
He can come into rooms even when the doors are closed.
He knows what we say even when we can’t see Him around.
He can breathe.
He can give power to remit or retain sins.
It is still possible to see marks where He was wounded, but the wounds are healed.
1 After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself.
 2 There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.
 3 Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.
 4 But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.
 5 Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.
 6 And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.
 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.
 8 And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.
 9 As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.
 10 Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.
 11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.
 12 Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.
 13 Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.
 14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.
 15 ¶So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
 16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
 17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
 18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.
 19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.
 20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?
 21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?
 22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.
 23 Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?
 24 This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. (John 21:1-24)
He knows what has been going on.
He knows where things are that we don’t.
He can make fire, obtain bread and fish, and cook it.  (He can do mundane tasks to serve others.)
He can carry things.
He can prophesy of our last days.

I’m glad for all these accounts because they tell me about the nature of Christ’s resurrected body, and by inference, what my body will be like when I am resurrected.

Thursday, March 28, 2013 4 comments

The Number of the Beast

Here is wisdom.
Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast:
for it is the number of a man;
and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.
(Revelation 13:18)

A lot has been written about the number of the mark of the beast and what it could mean.  There are scores of articles on the internet (and elsewhere, I’m sure) that use symbology to try to figure out who or what 666 refers to, to attach it to different things and people.  I think a much simpler purpose is behind this verse and that it is actually meant to reassure the Saints instead of alarm them.   (As always, this is my well-considered opinion that isn’t binding on anyone, and which is subject to change.)

In a previous post, I wrote about the different aspects in Revelation 13 that led me to believe that one of the beasts in the chapter, the one that came out of the earth, represented secular science. (I recommend a reread of it because it serves as a foundation for my reasoning that follows about the above verse.)  Secular science is becoming more of a social force and that the Lord as omniscient ruler of the universe would surely know this and inasmuch as it threatened spiritual well-being, the Lord would warn us about it, not just through modern prophets, but ancient ones as well, to show us He really knows all things.

So we come to the above verse it promises wisdom from God to speak to the understanding of those most in tune with spiritual things in order to share a secret of detection that will help us detect and resist the beast.  (We readers are put in a high state of anticipation..) And then we are given this number that is associated with the beast.  A label, if you will.  (This is why everyone looks for 666 everywhere.)  It strikes us as odd.  What is so important about this label?

Today I happened to notice the verb “is” used in the statement “his number is Six hundred threescore and six” makes that statement a definition.  Why is this so important?  I asked myself, “Why try to define or label this beast of secular science with a number?”  And I realized, “It’s because science is defined by numbers.  Numbers are everywhere in science.” 

So where does this insight “science is defined by numbers” take us in terms of understanding the whole verse?

“Here is wisdom” – Of course, this was meant to alert us to the fact that God had something extra wise to say about this beast of secular science.  And we are to remember that God’s wisdom is greater than the wisdom of the world, even that of science.

“Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast” – It is very interesting that the spiritual attuned are told to count the number of the beast.  It suggests counting is an act that will help us.  Today, numbers give us a sense of power because we can measure things in all kinds of ways.  I believe the Lord is inviting those who really understand spiritual things to take a count of the beast of secular science, which represents making a measurement or analysis of its characteristics, its strengths and its limitations.  Counting the thing that is obsessed with measurement suggests that we are to be scientific about our analysis yet use what we know from revelation as well.

“for it is the number of a man” – This, I believe, is the true message of this verse—that secular science is as imperfect as man because it only knows what it can count and measure and observe, although there are many important things that you can’t measure which science can know nothing about.   That is what we should keep in mind.  Remembering that science is imperfect will save us from the temptation to worship it and will keep us from believing mistakenly that science can save us.

Several limitations of science are:

  • It can’t answer questions of value.  It can’t answer the question “Which flower is prettier?” or “What picture looks worse?” It can’t answer because culture assigns value, and from the eternal perspective, God assigns value.
  • It can’t answer questions of morality, right, or wrong.  Answering questions of morality is also something God and culture does.
  • It can’t answer questions of the supernatural because they are limited to the natural laws of the universe that they can measure and test. 
  • There are limits to what science can observe, due to human limits to observe or to make tools capable of observing natural phenomena.
  • Science can’t tell us the purpose of our lives, where we came from, or where we are going after death. 

 So far this seems to be the most helpful interpretation I've found for that verse.  
Thursday, March 21, 2013 0 comments

Book Review: Weakness is Not Sin, by Wendy Ulrich


Weakness is Not Sin by Wendy Ulrich is about how weakness and sin are different.  It explores how repentance (the appropriate response to sin) and humility (the appropriate response to weakness) both resemble each other and differ, but focuses on how humility will help us bring the grace of Christ to work on our weaknesses and how it can help us turn those weaknesses into strengths.   

While it is clear that sin must be repented of, Ulrich points out that trying to repent of weakness will not work; we can’t promise never to be weak again.  Instead, weakness is an invitation to be humble and turn to God for divine help (grace) and this is how Saints must continue to use the Atonement in their lives.

Ulrich shows we need to learn to discern the difference between when we have sinned and when we have merely been weak.   She lists different kinds of weaknesses and classifies them so that the reader can see how they aren’t sin but are simply part of the mortal condition, such as physical disease, emotional/mental illness, susceptibility to temptation, predispositions we are born with, emotional suffering from trauma, deficits of upbringing and culture, limitations on time and  energy, and so on.

Ulrich also makes distinction between humility and shame, showing that shame can make us “embarrassed before God, turning ‘divine discontent’ over our weaknesses into discouragement or humiliation as we imagine His shaking finger” while humility, on the other hand, informs us of our true relationship with God and our equality with our brothers and sisters.  She does this so that we don’t accidently confuse shame with humility and think shame is a virtue. 

Previous to reading this book, I lived by the notion that weaknesses were something I needed to repent of, and I would wonder why I couldn’t seem to get away from them.  (I have New Years resolutions that I have carried over several years because I felt like I hadn’t made any progress.) 

I loved that Ulrich swept my misconceptions away in the very first chapter with a carefully constructed line of reasoning that helped me to perfectly understand how humility could help me and how humility would help me access the Lord’s grace through the Atonement.   I felt like my knowledge of what Christ’s Atonement could do for me doubled in size and I felt that I learned enough to apply the principles in my life.  I also feel that I understand humility better.  Humility has been extremely hard for me to pin down and get my head around, but by identifying humility as a process, Ulrich has taught me that humility can look like different things, depending on where I am in the process.

I also appreciated Ulrich’s discussion of shame versus guilt.  She named different types of shame and described them in a way that I’m sure would allow most people to be able to self-identify if they felt ashamed of something.  I hadn’t realized that I had so much shame in my life about failure, and Ulrich recommends dissecting our shame as a way to prepare to take steps to combat it. 

Another portion of Ulrich’s book that I found particularly well done was her chapter “When I Am Weak, Then Am I Strong” in which she listed six ways that the Lord can make our weaknesses strong.  None of them were unfamiliar to me, but I had never seen them all collected and connected together before and it gave me a glorious view of the possible ways we can look forward to gaining strength when we humbly turn to God. 

I also liked that Ulrich spent a chapter describing how we can find joy in discovering and living to our strengths because they are a way for us to express our authentic self.  It reminded me that weaknesses aren’t the only part of our character that deserves attention; strengths do too.

Who will appreciate this book

This book will be an absolute godsend to anyone who has struggled to overcome their weaknesses and who have felt discouragement at lack of progress.  I know it was a real eye-opener for me and I am really excited about what I learned from it.  I think I’ve already recommended it to at least six family and friends. (If you’re still wondering whether this book is worth it, you can read a sample chapter of Weakness is Not Sin on the Deseret Book website.)

Favorite Quotes

(I wish I could insert whole chapters, because much of what Ulrich says builds upon itself, but I’ll have to be content with giving you a few paragraphs and lines.)

“We can think we are dealing with weakness when we are really in a state of sin; this is an extremely dangerous position because then we don’t repent and qualify for forgiveness but remain in our sinful state.  We can also think we are dealing with a sin we just can’t seem to repent of when we are really dealing with a weakness; this is also a dangerous position because we can easily become discouraged, give up on ourselves and God, stop trying, give in to sin, or deny ourselves the joy and peace that are rightfully ours as those who are actually clean before the Lord.” (p35)

“It seems sometimes that so much of life is about finding the fine lines between laziness and moderation, between sin and weakness, between the Spirit and our own thoughts, between confidence and pride, between humility and humiliation.  But at least it is a start to know that there is in fact a difference and that the difference is worth exploring.  Trying to discern the real boundaries and edges…is not easy.  We will not always get it right, but we can get closer and closer as we “watch” ourselves and reflect on the results of our choices.” (p41)

“Patience teaches us that this precise moment is tolerable.  As we respond to what this moment requires of us, the future will take care of itself.” (p70)

“…my heart is convicted by the following observation from Hugh Nibley, professor emeritus at Brigham Young University: ‘The [spiritual] gifts are not in evidence today, except for one gift, which you notice the people ask for—the gift of healing. They ask for that with honest intent and with sincere hearts, and we really have that gift, because we are desperate and nobody else can help us….As for these other gifts—how often do we ask for them?  How earnestly do we seek them? We could have them if we did ask, but we don’t. ‘Well, who denies them?’ Anyone who doesn’t ask for them.’” (p71)

“Many of our most important strengths grow out of the seeds of weakness in one way or another.  The puny, crushable seed and the strong, vibrant tree are not different in their essence, only in their stage of development….Our job is not to transform weakness into something completely different but to create the conditions conducive to growth from the first state to the second.  Those conditions include humility and faith.” (p101)

“Sometimes strengths and weaknesses are flip sides of the same coin: What appears as weakness in one context may be strength another context or from another perspective.” (p102)

“…each of us in one way or another can develop strengths to compensate for our weaknesses—strengths that allow us to succeed in unlikely places and against the odds.” (p103)

“The humility that can emerge from seeing our weakness fosters the very virtues that fit us to sit down with God.  In particular, humility about our weakness can teach us charity, the strength Moroni declares is essential to eternal life with God:’Except men shall have charity they cannot inherit that place which thou hast prepared in the mansions of thy Father’ (Ether 12:34)”  (p107)

“On more than one occasion when I felt I did not deserve it, [God] has stepped in anyway and made my less-than-best effort or less-than-smartest decision or less-than-noblest motivation work, compensating for my weakness with His strength.” (p109)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 2 comments

Those Persecuted for Christ’s Sake: KJV versus 3 Nephi

11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you,
and persecute you,
and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely,
for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad:
for great is your reward in heaven:
for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
(Matt. 5:11-12)
3 Nephi:
11 And blessed are ye when men shall revile you
and persecute,
and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely,
for my sake;
12 For ye shall have great joy and be exceedingly glad,
for great shall be your reward in heaven;
for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you.
(3 Nephi 12:11-12)
In this block of verses, Jesus commends those who are persecuted for Christ’s sake.  3 Nephi 12 speaks of the reward of joy as something reserved for the future, unlike Matthew, which seems to command those persecuted to be glad in the middle of the pain they undergo.  To me, 3 Nephi seems more realistic; persecution is not fun to go through.  Joy tends to come after long spaces when we can look back and begin to understand and feel satisfied with how we made it through, rather than being pained and fearing a repetition.

Some might argue that the KJV’s language bringing the reward in heaven into the present tense is more powerful, but the reward isn’t just because you are persecuted for Christ’s sake.  It’s for staying faithful to the end, and you have to get to the end to see whether a reward is merited or not.
Sunday, March 17, 2013 2 comments

Different Ways We May Yield to the Devil

15 And because of my mourning and lamentation ye have gathered yourselves together, and do marvel; yea, and ye have great need to marvel; yea, ye ought to marvel because ye are given away that the devil has got so great hold upon your hearts.
 16 Yea, how could you have given way to the enticing of him who is seeking to hurl away your souls down to everlasting misery and endless wo?  (Helaman 7:15-16)
 This isn’t a very cheerful block of verses.  Here the prophet Nephi is speaking from his garden tower to the people of Zarahemla who have been marveling at his grief over their wickedness.  Nephi tells them that instead of marveling at him, they ought to marvel at themselves and their wickedness.

He uses three different “away” phrases that capture different aspects of how they have gone astray (and how we may also go astray).

“ye are given away” – This captures the sense of how some of them have given themselves to the devil as if as a gift.  (“Here, Mr. Devil, let me make you a present of my eternal soul.”)

“you have given way” – This captures how some have stood strong against the devil for a while like a strong city, but after continued attacks they have given up and given way all of a sudden, collapsing.

“him who is seeking to hurl away your souls” – This corresponds to how some seem determined to destroy themselves as quickly as possible with terrible choices, treating themselves like trash.  This is exactly as the devil wants it.  He doesn’t treat souls gently.  He wants to trash them, to throw them down into depths of misery as quickly as possible. 

There’s two contradicting images of the devil here—one of him having great hold on people’s hearts and the other with him seeking to hurl souls away to everlasting misery.  But they are both true.

May we never give ourselves away, nor give way, nor throw ourselves away.
Friday, March 15, 2013 0 comments

Hurricanes and Gulfs of Misery in the Scriptures

Have you ever noticed the hurricane imagery in the Book of Mormon?
And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. (Helaman 5:12)
Clearly Helaman and his sons had experienced at least one hurricane in their lives for him to use such a description. 

I also think Helaman probably experienced a lot of human hurricanes.  He, having been a public figure (chief judge) during his life, probably found himself on the receiving end of all kinds of pressure (like mighty winds) from many different people wanting him to judge a certain way or protesting vehemently when he didn’t decide as they hoped.   I suppose a storm of public opposition and protest could be compared to a hurricane and it would be really tempting to give way unless you had a firm foundation you trusted in. 

I suppose this is useful to us today because it is likely that our church will find itself on the receiving end of storms of opposition.  It has happened several times in the past and it will likely again.  We must trust in the rock of our Redeemer as our foundation.

Another image that interests me in the above scripture is “the gulf of misery,” which we are promised will not be dragged down into if we build our foundation on Christ.  This makes the gulf of misery into something like an ocean raving with storm surge that will pull anything back into it that it can carry away.

The “gulf of misery” is used elsewhere in Helaman in a different way:
Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked— And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God… (Helaman 3:29-30)
Here I notice it says the man of Christ has to take a strait course across a gulf of misery toward God.   Here, the gulf of misery is spoken of as something we must all wade through on our journey back to God and the word of God can keep us from being overcome and engulfed by it.  Going through the gulf of misery is not a cheerful prospect if you’re used to a sunshine and rainbows theology, but in times of pain and hurt, this can really comfort.
Thursday, March 14, 2013 3 comments

Cornerstones, Keystones, and Capstones

In the church, we occasionally hear quotes that refer to cornerstones, keystones, and capstones.  It may help us understand those quotes' full meaning if we learn more about these stones and their function in building.


According to Wikipedia, the cornerstone is “the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure”(1).  Cornerstones today have a ceremonial role (and are the last stones put in place), rather than a functional role, but in history they were vital reference points.   The cornerstone was hewn to have true right angles, perfect perpendiculars, and perfect horizontals, so that if the rest of the stones were put in place with reference to it, it was impossible to make a mistake (2).
Cornerstone - Stock illustration
As we learn this, we begin to understand Paul's words about Christ:
And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; (Eph 2:20)
Knowing the function of the cornerstone as an important standard makes Paul’s words that much more powerful.  They convey how Christ is the perfect example to pattern ourselves after and if we build our lives with strict reference to Him, it is impossible for us to err.

We also understand better what is meant by this scripture:
22 The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. (Psalms 118:22-23) 
We see that it prophesies that Christ would become the cornerstone even after being rejected by the Jews (or anyone else for that matter).


We are a little more familiar with the function of the keystone.  It is a wedge-shaped stone that goes at the top of an arch and locks all the stones into position so that they are able to bear weight.  It makes the arch self-supporting.
Joseph Smith said, “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (3).

President Ezra Taft Benson mentioned three ways the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion.  “It is the keystone in our witness of Christ.  It is the keystone of our doctrine.  It is the keystone of testimony” (4).

The Book of Mormon is a keystone in that it bolsters the witness of Christ that is in the Bible.  (If you have seen how Christ’s divine Sonship, His crucifixion, and His resurrection is questioned today based only upon the Bible, you know why the Book of Mormon’s witness is needed.)  The Book of Mormon also confounds false doctrine, lays down contentions, and establishes peace (see 2 Nephi 3:12).


Capstones (usually referred to as “coping” today), are used to cover the courses of a masonry work and shed water (5) so that the stones below remain strong over time in changing weather.  They are the most exposed element and are meant to be highly durable. 
arch in wall with keystone and capstone

President Ezra Taft Benson said, “The Book of Mormon is the ‘keystone’ of our religion, and the Doctrine and Covenants is the capstone, with continuing latter-day revelation.  The Lord has placed His stamp of approval on both the keystone and the capstone” (6).

Consider how many doctrines in the D&C protect us from the storms of life to which we would otherwise be fully exposed:
·      The doctrine of modern prophets
·      The doctrine of receiving and recognizing revelation
·      The doctrine of church organization
·      The doctrine of sacred ordinances
·      The doctrine of the worth of souls
·      The doctrines of Zion and gathering
·      The doctrine of the priesthood
·      The doctrine of temples
·      The doctrine of celestial, terrestrial, and telestial glory
·      The doctrines of stewardship and consecration
·      The doctrine of health in the Word of Wisdom
·      The doctrines of celestial marriage
·      The doctrine of salvation for the dead

Cornerstones, keystones, and capstones all have important qualities and we can see how they make great teaching analogies for conveying the importance of Christ’s example, how a second witness gives a religion cohesive strength, and how modern revelation on doctrine can protect us against present destructive forces.

(1)    Wikipedia, “cornerstone,”, accessed March 14, 2013.
(2)    “Cornerstones: A tradition of dedication that makes sense today,”
(3)    Book of Mormon Introduction
(4)    Ensign,  Nov 1986, p5-7.
(5)     Worknik, capstone.
(6)    Ensign, May 1987, p83