Thursday, October 30, 2014 2 comments

Looking Back from the Plough

61 And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.
62 And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:61-62)

Jesus’s words here seem unexpectedly harsh in response to someone who just wants to say goodbye to family before leaving to follow Jesus.  Thus, it is a good bet there is a principle He is explaining that we don’t quite understand.

These verses come in a context of others who are declaring they’d like to follow Jesus and they are taught different things about the commitment required, like “The son of man doesn’t have a place to lay his head” and “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.”

The person in these verses wanted a chance to say goodbye to family, which seems harmless, if we assume that he had a good family who wanted the best for him and who were faithful themselves. 

But what if his family were not good people?  What if they were a major obstacle to this man in following Jesus?  In such a case, it would be better for him to separate himself and not return, since by going back even once would put himself under much negative pressure to renounce following Christ.   By asking to return to this family to say farewell, the man was certainly demonstrating his reluctance to separate himself from them.  It showed he wasn’t completely convinced that his sacrifice would bring him much greater blessings than those he enjoyed with his family. 

Jesus taught a great principle in response.  “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”  Just like plowing is work, it takes a lot of work to be a disciple of Christ.  To look back is to wish one didn’t have to plough or to look back at one’s comfortable house and bed.   It is the equivalent of looking back with a sense of sorrow that one has to leave at all.  And yearning for past sins definitely makes us unfit for the kingdom of God.   To yearn for past sins and past dear associations that are nevertheless bad influences is as if one had never converted in the first place.  It means one has not really changed their heart and has only changed their behavior.  The kingdom of God is always an improvement over sin, not a step backward. 

Some converts to the church have literally had to separate themselves from their families, and thereby they have demonstrated great bravery, but not all have, and I think there are other ways of applying this story to us. 

Maybe we haven’t had to leave family to convert and stay faithful, but we have to leave behind all our bad habits and false traditions and our favorite little sins.  When we are called upon to repent, do we find ourselves wanting to “say goodbye” to those sins we feel especially attached to with a final binge before we take up the cross of discipleship? 
Tuesday, October 28, 2014 2 comments

The company of the prophets in 1 Sam. 19 and the power of testimony

18 ¶So David fled, and escaped, and came to Samuel to Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth.
19 And it was told Saul, saying, Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah.
20 And Saul sent messengers to take David: and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed over them, the Spirit of God was upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied.
21 And when it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they prophesied likewise. And Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they prophesied also. (1 Sam. 19:18-21)

The company of the prophets is something you don’t hear anything of in the Old Testament until the time of Samuel.  This makes me think it was an institution that Samuel established to help keep the Israelites in the right way so that Samuel wasn’t the only one teaching and preaching and testifying of the coming Messiah.  We first see the company of the prophets in 1 Samuel 10 when Samuel instructs the newly anointed Saul that he will meet a company of the prophets coming back from worship and that He would prophesy with them.

The advantage of having a company of prophets was that it wasn’t an office (as far as we can tell here), but a spiritual state that required spiritual maturity, testimony, and knowledge of God.

We know from John’s writings in Revelation that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.  I don’t think that was any different in the Old Testament.

When I read the events in these verses, it was cool to me that the messengers of Saul were so moved by the testimonies they heard from the prophets.  I started asking myself what thoughts and feelings they might have felt as they were worked upon by the Spirit.  Here’s what I surmise they might felt:

The text says they saw the company of the prophets prophesying and Samuel standing as appointed over them.  It must have struck them with great force how great the contrast was between these men led by a great prophet sharing great spiritual messages and their own mission as messengers of a murderous king, sent to take and execute David, a great hero.   No honest-hearted man could realize this without yearning to be one of the prophets with a message of salvation rather than a messenger of undeserved destruction.

What might the messengers have prophesied of? 

I imagine they anticipated the day when the Messiah (the anointed one) would come and save them so that they would no longer be in bondange to sin and forced to serve Satan.  They could easily draw parallels between their situation – being servants of a murderous king – and being in bondage to Satan.

I think one thing we can get from this story is how powerful testimony can be in blunting evil purposes.  The messengers of Saul had a mission—take David so he could be killed.  But testimony and the Spirit of the Lord stopped them in their tracks. 

How do you think can we use testimony today to fight evil?

Sunday, October 26, 2014 4 comments

Pride makes us like a decayed linen girdle

I was reading recently in Jeremiah and I ran across this interesting experience/experiment that the Lord gave to Jeremiah as an object lesson for his preaching.

Thus saith the Lord unto me, Go and get thee a linen girdle, and put it upon thy loins, and put it not in water.
So I got a girdle according to the word of the Lord, and put it on my loins.
And the word of the Lord came unto me the second time, saying,
Take the girdle that thou hast got, which is upon thy loins, and arise, go to Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole of the rock.
So I went, and hid it by Euphrates, as the Lord commanded me.
And it came to pass after many days, that the Lord said unto me, Arise, go to Euphrates, and take the girdle from thence, which I commanded thee to hide there.
Then I went to Euphrates, and digged, and took the girdle from the place where I had hid it: and, behold, the girdle was marred, it was profitable for nothing.
Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
Thus saith the Lord, After this manner will I mar the pride of Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem.
10 This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for nothing.
11 For as the girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man, so have I caused to cleave unto me the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah, saith the Lord; that they might be unto me for a people, and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory: but they would not hear. (Jeremiah 13:1-11)

Basically the Lord told Jeremiah to get a linen girdle (or belt) and wear it and take care of it carefully.  Then, after some time, the Lord told Jeremiah to take the linen girdle, go to the Euphrates river and hide it in a hole somewhere. Jeremiah obeyed and buried it.  Then after more time had passed, the Lord told him to go back and retrieve the linen girdle again.  So he does.  And he finds the girdle is ruined and can’t be used anymore.

(Linen is a cloth made out of flax fibers, so if it is buried in a wet environment among lots of soil microbes and bacteria, it will begin to decompose like any other plant matter.)

The Lord tells Jeremiah that the pride of his people is going to be ruined just like the girdle was ruined.  He also says that just like Jeremiah had that girdle tied on him, the Lord had tied the house of Israel to him, but they chose to forsake him, so they will be ruined.

I think this experiment is a great lesson about the results of pride and rebellion.  When we’re humble, and follow the Lord, we’re attached to him just like a belt.  We’re not fancy ourselves, but we make the Lord look good.

But as soon as we stop listening and following, imagining that we are all that and a bag of chips, thinking we can worship other gods (or let our priorities get messed up), it is as if we untie ourselves, drop off, and bury ourselves in a muddy pit, and we begin to decay.

This resonated with me recently because I’ve noticed pride and vain imaginations in myself that have kept me from listening as I should.  It is very helpful for me to see that pride and rebellion make me decay and make me good for nothing.  I don’t want to be like that.  My vain imaginations don’t do me any good because they don’t tell me what good thing I must do next; they only tell me I’m fine how I am and that gets in the way of me changing for the better.   

Friday, October 24, 2014 7 comments

New insight on the Parable of the Sower

I was reading Talmage’s Jesus the Christ yesterday and got some new insights from the parable of the sower.

If you remember, this parable is about the four different types of ground that the seeds fell on.

19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;
21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.
22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.
23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Mattew 13:19-23)

We often think of these different types of ground as different types of people and the way they react to hearing the gospel.  But this may be doing us a disservice.  How does it help us to read it that way?  I don’t think it does much for us except to give us a self-satisfied notion that we know what’s going on.

Another question – if a person is one particular type of ground, like a bad type, are they stuck that way forever?  And if a person is a good type of ground, are they forever safe?

I’m sure you can probably answer that question with me.  No; no one is stuck forever if they don’t want to be, or forever safe in spite of themselves.

This is when I realized what the true purpose of this parable is.  It’s to be used as a self-diagnosis tool for the Saints to help us test ourselves and realize where we are.   Because we’re not always going to be good ground all the time.  For whatever reason, we may find ourselves identifying with the weedy ground or stony ground or even the wayside ground.  (I know I have, at various times.)

The even cooler thing is we’re not stuck, if that happens because we should know enough about farming to realize that for each problematic type of ground, there is a solution for how to fix it.

If the ground on the wayside is trodden down and birds come and carry away the seeds, then clearly that ground has become terribly hardened.  It has to be softened up.  (Humility!  Gratitude!  And trials!)  If birds are carrying away the seeds, the seeds need to be held onto by the ground and buried.  (Treasure and ponder over the word instead of forgetting it.)

If the ground is stony with only a shallow covering of earth, then those stones need to be broken up (with humility) or carried away (like taking away bad traditions with good doctrine).  The seed has to be planted deeper for deeper roots to form (commitment). 

If the ground is weedy and choking the good seeds, then the weeds have to be removed (priorities have to be put straight).

If the ground is fruitful, but only giving 30- or 60-fold when 100-fold is desired, then there has to be more soil amendment (nourishing doctrine and desire) and more growth (deciding to do more to stretch oneself).

This parable really is for us to act on because Jesus can sow the word profusely, but we need to be prepared for it.  He can’t do that preparation for us. 
Wednesday, October 22, 2014 0 comments

Jesus on the Tenuous Satisfaction of Parenting

27 ¶And it came to pass, as he [Jesus] spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked.
28 But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it. (Luke 11:27-28)

What is going on here?  Why is this woman praising the womb that bore Jesus and the breasts that suckled Him? 

I think this must have been her way of saying, “If you are so wonderful, your mother must have been amazing, and she must be one of the happiest of women to see how you turned out.”

Jesus briefly acknowledges that yes, His mother is blessed, but He seems to want to emphasize the blessed state of those that hear and obey God’s words.

I was thinking about this and I realized that Jesus knew that not all mothers would have the blessedness of seeing their children be good.  Some would ache over disobedient children.  Some women wouldn’t get to have children at all.  The blessedness of having good children is unstable because after all the teaching and nurturing, it is dependent upon a child’s agency. 

On the other hand, blessedness that comes from one’s own good choices and one’s own agency is more in one’s own control.

Jesus wasn’t denying the satisfaction from raising children who make good choices, but He wanted mothers (and fathers) to remember their own good choices could bring them happiness and they had control over that.

I hope I can remember that when I have children.
Monday, October 20, 2014 4 comments

David flees the Manhunt

Reading through 1 Samuel 19-31 this year, it struck me as never before how difficult life must have been for David to have Saul irrationally and jealously seeking his death. 

David was the focus of a concerted national manhunt.  Think what it would be like to have the police, the FBI, and the military called out to track you down because the president decided he was jealous of you and feared you would lead a coup against him.

You can see that David (and his friend Jonathan) do his best to deal with it and each step of the way he is kept safe.  Think about what you would do and where you would go if you were being chased like him.

First Jonathan speaks for David to King Saul and manages to talk King Saul down from the tree, so to speak.  King Saul makes an oath that David won’t be killed.  Jonathan is completely satisfied by this oath (and it requires David to do some hard oath-swearing himself later before Jonathan believes David is really in danger), but sadly Saul’s word isn’t worth much any more.

Next, David is home with his wife Michal when he first has to start running.  He has to escape out a window to avoid the soldiers coming to get him.  So he’s not safe with his wife; where can he go?

He goes down to Ramah and stays with the prophet Samuel and the company of the school of the prophets.  The Spirit of the Lord effectively softens the hearts of all who are sent to arrest him so that they prophesy and refrain from taking him.  Even Saul, when he tries to take David himself, is affected, though it is only temporary.

After this, David goes to Jonathan to try to get Jonathan to find out from King Saul why he is being hunted and chased like a villain instead of treated like a loyal servant.  Jonathan has to see Saul’s murderousness first hand, so they set up a test to demonstrate Saul really does want David dead.  And the test does show it is true.  And it seems no reconciliation is going to happen.  David really can’t stay around.  Where is he to go?  He doesn’t have food or weapons and he doesn’t know who he can trust.

David goes to Ahimelech the priest and Ahimelech gives him the shewbread and Goliath’s sword.  David pretends he’s been sent on a secret mission, probably in order to protect Ahimelech from having to decide whether to lie or tell the truth if he’s called on the carpet for helping.  I think he’s trying to give Ahimelech deniability, but Saul does not accept that, nor does he listen to Ahimelech’s very just arguments.   Now where does David go?

He tries going to the Philistines for refuge.  Unfortunately, they realize who he is and even think David might be Israel’s king, so he pretends to be crazy to get himself thrown out of Philistine Gath.

At this point his family comes to him, probably realizing that if Saul hates David they aren’t safe either.  David finds them refuge in Moab, but the prophet Gad won’t let him stay there too, and tells him to go back to Judah.

At this point, the prophetic direction seems absolutely CRAZY.  Why does the Lord want David to go back to living like a fugitive?  (We’ll have to see if we can understand why as we look through.)

Next David saved the town of Keilah from the Philistines, but discovers by revelation that he can’t stay there because the men of Keilah will betray him to Saul, who is about to come hunting him again.  So where does he go next?

He stays in the wilderness and caves.  But the men of Ziph tell Saul where he is and promise to spy out all his secret place, and David does some pretty desperate maneuvering and even gets trapped, but Saul is distracted at the last moment by news of a Philistine attack that he has to beat back.   So now where does David go?

David goes to the strong holds of En-gedi, probably more caves in difficult-to-reach places.  It is here he gets a chance to prove to Saul by not killing him that he means Saul no harm.  So Saul goes home.  But what does David do?  He goes back to his strong hold.  Saul was full of gratitude, but nothing about forgiving and forgetting is mentioned.

Next David goes to the wilderness of Paran and is kept from killing Nabal for Nabal’s rudeness by Abigail’s timely intervention.

Then David hides in the hill Hachilah and his position is betrayed to Saul by the Ziphites.  Saul chases David and David gets another chance to prove he’s not really trying to kill Saul, which causes Saul to leave him alone for a while again.

Then David goes back to Philistine Gath and works with his mind as mercenaries for Achish the king there.  He’s able to settle his people in a little town of Ziklag and make raids against Amalekites secretly.  However, right when the Philistines decide to go on a campaign against Israel, David is sent back to Ziklag, where he discovers their families were not as safe as they thought; the Amalekites raided Ziklag while they were gone so he has to go track them down and win everybody back.  And it turns out he doesn’t have to be in the Philistine army when the Philistines fight Israel and kill Saul’s sons or be part of Saul’s despair and suicide.

Amazing that he manages to thrive under this constant pressure of danger and having no certain dwelling.

Okay.  So now I have to ask, how does going back to Judah at Gad’s direction turn out to be the right thing for David to do? 

1.     David becomes a rallying point for those who suffer under Saul’s increasingly erratic and immoral reign.
2.     With people to take care of, he learns to lead and to care for large groups of men and their families, even with no certain homes or means of survival.  (It sounds a lot like the children of Israel living in the desert after leaving Egypt..)
3.     He begins to use his following to protect Israel from its enemies, building goodwill that will a) encourage people to help feed him and his army in the short term, b) help people better accept him as a good candidate for king in the long term.  His following, who start out as fearful, become an army of brave soldiers.
4.     He is given choices to respond mercifully when he could have avenged insult.  This clearly separates him as a different leader than Saul, who tends to be extra harsh in response to insult or seeming disregard for his authority.
5.     David goes on campaigns to destroy theAmalekites without needing prophetic prodding.   He also goes on campaign to save his own people who have been carried off, and he chooses to distribute spoils widely and generously.
6.     He tests and proves the Lord’s promises of protection and deliverance to the righteous.
7.     David becomes a person who people come to and choose as a leader, rather than someone merely appointed by authority.  He is chosen because the powers that be leave no alternative to those who want to keep their integrity.

Can we imagine that David would have been as good a king if he hadn’t had the painful experience of being hunted unjustly?  Would he have been as good as he was if the kingdom had just been handed to him like it had been to Saul?  Probably not.

That gives me hope because it shows me that my most difficult trials may be the very ones that teach me my most valuable lessons and skills. 

If I feel adrift in a sea of uncertainty, if I can trust the Lord like David did, I will be alright in the long run and the things I learn during my struggles may be instrumental in my later success, even if I’m not sure what that will be. 

And happily, even if I can’t see where my difficult experience will help me toward a temporal success, I can at least see somewhat how it is helping me toward an eternal success in the celestial kingdom.

Saturday, October 18, 2014 0 comments

The big lesson from all the attempts on David’s life in 1 Samuel 18

1 Samuel 18 has so much happening in it that it is really compacted.  A cursory reading makes it seem like the chapter only records two of Saul's attempts on David's life, but there are actually at least five.

Attempt #1

Attempt #2

After Saul's failed spearing attempt, v13-16 records:

13 Therefore Saul removed him from him, and made him his captain over a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people.
14 And David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the Lord was with him.
15 Wherefore when Saul saw that he behaved himself very wisely, he was afraid of him.
16 But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them.

What this tells us is Saul put David over a thousand men in the army and David went out on military missions set by Saul.  Can we imagine Saul giving David easy stuff to do?  No.  He would give David the dirtiest, most dangerous missions in hopes of getting him killed.

Do you think David was blind to what was being done to him?  I doubt it.  I think he had a feeling he was being treated like cannon fodder.  He could have complained, but it doesn’t seem like he did, and instead he just did his best.  That uncomplaining obedience may be what the text means when it says he behaved himself wisely.

The result was that Saul’s attempt failed.  God kept David safe, and David kept his mouth shut, and he ended up more loved by the people than before, which was the opposite of what Saul wanted.  Perhaps Saul hoped David would turn out to be an ineffective leader and was trying to “promote to discredit.”  Instead, God used it to increase David’s talents and made good come of it.

Attempt #3

In Saul’s next attempt, he tries to praise and incentive-ize David into doing something exceptionally foolish to get him killed.

And Saul said to David, Behold my elder daughter Merab, her will I give thee to wife: only be thou valiant for me, and fight the Lord’s battles. For Saul said, Let not mine hand be upon him, but let the hand of the Philistines be upon him. (v17)

Notice Saul gives this incentive—marriage to his eldest daughter—and his instructions are “only be thou valiant for me; and fight the Lord’s battles.”  That’s like saying, “Your only job is to be brave and fight.”

But… war takes more than just bravery and fighting, and in asking David to do that, Saul was attempting to discourage David from being smart about how he fought, hoping he would take stupid risks and get himself killed.  (As an aside, I’ve recently been reading a sci fi space opera series that has as a major plot point a space fleet’s tendency to suffer terrible losses because bravery was higher priority than discipline and strategy.  It gave this verse much greater significance than it would have had otherwise.)

How does David respond?  He refuses to take the bait and says that he and his family are nobodies and the last people to become connected by marriage to the king.  He’s okay with not being famous or connected to the king’s family.  His humility saves him.

Attempts #4 & 5

This is a two-parter. 

20 And Michal Saul’s daughter loved David: and they told Saul, and the thing pleased him.
21 And Saul said, I will give him her, that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him. Wherefore Saul said to David, Thou shalt this day be my son in law in the one of the twain….
25 And Saul said, Thus shall ye say to David, The king desireth not any dowry, but an hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to be avenged of the king’s enemies. But Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. (v20-21, 25)

Saul intends Michal to be a snare to David and of course he also requires David to pay a dowry of 100 Philistine foreskins to marry her, and we know he hoped David would get killed trying to fulfill that requirement.

But how did Saul intend Michal to be a snare?  I had to think about this one and read more about Michal to figure this out.  I have a feeling that Saul meant it in the same sense that the Lord told the Israelites the Canaanites would be a snare to them and the same way the Moabite women were a snare in Numbers 25.  Michal may have been idolatrous.  I Samuel 19:13,16 tells that she put an image in David’s bed as a decoy so that David could escape Saul’s servants.  But what was an image doing in their house when there is that commandment in the Law of Moses to not have any graven images?  This was a full-sized statue and it was moveable.  David was a man after God’s heart, so it had to be Michal’s.  So Michal was idolatrous.

It seems Saul hoped that Michal’s idolatry would begin to pull David down once he was married to her.  Saul hoped to destroy David’s righteousness and favor with God in a manner strikingly similar to what Balaam taught the Moabites to do to the Israelites.

No, David!  Don’t marry her!  It’s a trap! 

Yet David does obtain the 100 Philistine foreskins with God’s protection.  (Note: v27 says he brought back 200 foreskins, but 2 Samuel 3:14 says it was 100.)  And he does marry Michal.   (At this point we should holding our heads and yelling “Oh noooooooo!”)

But… instead of Michal becoming a snare to David, the Lord uses Michal as a means of delivering David.  Remember when Saul sent his men to kill David, Michal warned him of his danger and helped him escape.  Then, she took the image she worshipped and put it in service as a decoy.    The very things that Saul meant to destroy David became the means by which the Lord saved him.  How’s that for showing the Lord’s great power to bring good out of evil?

It’s really a sad thing reading about all the ways Saul planned to try to get rid of David.  Yet, we get a great lesson from David.  As we see all the ways that the Lord brought good out of evil for him, we can gain greater faith that the Lord does the same thing for us today.   If we try to be as faithful to the Lord as David was (at this time in his life), the Lord can similarly take the bad things and turn them to our good.   To use an airplane analogy, if we keep our wings tilted up, the winds of opposition will lift us higher. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014 4 comments

KJV versus JST: Law, Hope, and Priesthood Oaths in Hebrews 7

King James Version (KJV)
Joseph Smith Translation (JST)
19 For the law made nothing perfect,
but the bringing in of a better hope did;
by the which we draw nigh unto God.
19  For the law was administered without an oath and made nothing perfect,
but was only the bringing in of a better hope;
by the which we draw nigh unto God.
20 And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest:
20  Inasmuch as this high priest was not without an oath,
by so much was Jesus made the surety of a better testament.
21 (For those priests were made without an oath;
but this with an oath by him that said unto him,
The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:)
(Hebrews 7:19-21)

21  (For those priests were made without an oath;
but this with an oath by him that said unto him,
The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek;)
(JST Hebrews 7:19-21)

We learn a number of things from the subtle changes Joseph Smith added here.  (Notice that it isn’t just the blue sections that were added, but the order of words was changed and some words were removed. 

The KJV makes it seem like the law—the Law of Moses—was completely useless—that it didn’t make anything perfect and it had nothing to do with giving hope.

However, the JST tells us that even though the law didn’t make people perfect, it brought in a better hope.  This makes us ponder what that hope might be and how the law would do that.  I can think of several ways.  1) The rules in the law suggest that someone would come who could be obedient to them all.  2) The type of rules in the law teach principles of repentance, purity, atonement, and charity for us to think about.  3) The way the rules and ordinances were administered by the priests were types of Christ and His redeeming mission.  So when their obedience was mixed with faith in Christ, the people would gain hope of their salvation and thereby draw nearer to God.

The KJV makes it seem like the better hope could make men perfect.  The JST removes the word that creates this implication.  Hope alone does not perfection bring, but helps with maintaining faith and encourages us to keep getting closer to God.  (How could we keep fighting our natural man if we didn’t have hope that Christ makes it possible to escape that and become more like God?)

The KJV makes it seem that Jesus was a priest made with an oath, but the other priests were not.  The JST clarifies that high priests were made with an oath, so they were a type of Christ, while other priests were not made with oaths, though they could administer the law.

The JST also adds that the high priest’s oath was meant to increase men’s certainty of Christ who would bring a better covenant than the Law of Moses.  The oath was to be a guarantee that Christ would come.

Because of the JST, we get a better perspective of the spiritual purpose of the Law of Moses, that it was good for something and not just busywork until Christ came.  We also have clarified for us where priesthood oaths were administered and how they distinguished the high priest from the other priests and the teaching purpose of that difference.  We also learn that it was (of course) meant to teach about Christ and strengthen faith in His coming redemption.

It might sometimes seem to you like I am too interested in subtle changes and turns of phrases, distinctions that seem not worth noticing, but when I compare the JST with the KJV, I can’t help but see it as evidence of Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling.  These verses may well be the revelatory seeds of the oath and covenant of the priesthood.  How could he have known what was supposed to be there unless it had been given by God?   

How many false traditions might Joseph Smith have corrected to help us know how to come to Christ and we aren’t paying attention?  How much of our life might be eased if we only knew that he had been given answers our questions so many years ago?
Tuesday, October 14, 2014 2 comments

Probing the counsel to “Stand in holy places”

Sunday school lesson 36 has an attention activity showing some repeated counsel about standing in holy places from different parts of the D&C.  You may have just gone through this lesson, but I want to look at these scriptures to see if they can tell us more about how to stand in holy places, since that’s kind of abstract counsel.  Yes, we usually take it to mean attending the temple, but is that all?

31 And there shall be men standing in that generation, that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land.
32 But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved; but among the wicked, men shall lift up their voices and curse God and die. (D&C 45:31-32, emphasis added)

The context of this verse tells of overflowing scourges and desolating sickness, and outside the range of those verses is desolations, murder, and massacre.  Among this, we are to stand in holy places.  Holy places seem to be places of refuge that help us withstand the difficulties spoken of.

In desolating sickness, we can stand in holy places with healing priesthood power, good sanitation practices, healthy diet, prayer for the sick, service to help one another, and faith in God that He has all power.  Is going to the temple the best thing if you are in close contact with communicable disease?  (Sanitation and hand-washing, people!)

In natural disasters, we can stand in holy places with our emergency preparedness, organizing together, watchcare and service to others, and keeping up the devotional practices that give us strength like prayer, scripture study, FHE, and church.  And going to the temple. 

Among violence, we can stand in holy places by not seeking revenge, avoiding anger, forgiving, praying for comfort and protection and courage, showing love, as well as continuing devotional practices.  And going to the temple.

Note that in contrast to the disciples who stand immovably in holy places, the wicked will lift up their voices, curse God, and die.  What does that really look like?  I suspect it is a ton of complaining, venting anger, bitterness, outrage.  It will probably involve many people looking at the widespread suffering and asking, “How could God let this happen?” and getting angry at God for not preventing it.  But because they were not willing to keep the commandments that would mitigate their suffering, they can only suffer and eventually die in their sins.  Very sad.

The contrast shows that the wicked place blame on God and yet don’t do the things He asks that would make it better for themselves or others, while the righteous trust God and at the same time keep the commandments and their obedience makes things better for themselves and others around them.

The next “stand in holy places” scripture comes at the end of the section that prophesied the Civil War and more troubles to come afterward:

6 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;
7 That the cry of the saints, and of the blood of the saints, shall cease to come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, from the earth, to be avenged of their enemies.
8 Wherefore, stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly, saith the Lord. Amen. (D&C 87:6-8, emphasis added)

Bloodshed, famine, plague, earthquake, storm, and a consumption (a consuming event) that will eventually make an end of all nations.  It also mentions the cry of the Saints and the blood of the Saints coming up into the ears of the Lord.

So not only does this tell us that standing in holy places will help us survive disasters, but while society and governments collapse, the organization of the church will help us maintain order among our own, through our obedience and diligence as we “be not moved.” 

Since it seems there are Saints who will be wronged and even killed unjustly, standing in holy places will mean staying with the principles of faith, forgiveness, prayer, and leaving justice in the hands of God.  And going to the temple.  We’ll also need courage and faith in the final judgment that God will right our wrongs.

20 And, behold, there is none other place appointed than that which I have appointed; neither shall there be any other place appointed than that which I have appointed, for the work of the gathering of my saints—
21 Until the day cometh when there is found no more room for them; and then I have other places which I will appoint unto them, and they shall be called stakes, for the curtains or the strength of Zion.
22 Behold, it is my will, that all they who call on my name, and worship me according to mine everlasting gospel, should gather together, and stand in holy places;
23 And prepare for the revelation which is to come, when the veil of the covering of my temple, in my tabernacle, which hideth the earth, shall be taken off, and all flesh shall see me together. (D&C 101:20-23, emphasis added)

The context of this instance of “stand in holy places” talks about the gathering of the Saints in Zion and in stakes and preparing for the time when all flesh will see Jesus.  It seems to me that gathering with the Saints is one part of standing in holy places because we encourage each other and our service to each other helps us practice discipleship.

So it seems to me that more than being in a particular place, “standing in holy places” means to act in doctrine in a way appropriate to the emergency or need.  It’s falling back on gospel principles to get through the hard thing, the trial, the affliction, the whatever.  Going to the temple and going to church is only a few of the many good ways we can respond, although it could be argued that if you prepare yourself for the temple, that encompasses keeping a whole raft of commandments.

I think “stand in holy places” is yet another way of saying “keep the commandments” that build your house with an unshakeable foundation in the Savior.