Friday, February 24, 2017 0 comments

The Lord sees our labors

D&C 126 is a very short section of revelation for Brigham Young in which Brigham Young was told it wasn’t required for him to travel and leave his family any more.

1 Dear and well-beloved brother, Brigham Young, verily thus saith the Lord unto you: My servant Brigham, it is no more required at your hand to leave your family as in times past, for your offering is acceptable to me.
2 I have seen your labor and toil in journeyings for my name. (D&C 126:1-2)

The part that strikes me as touching is that the Lord tells Brigham, “your offering is acceptable to me” and “I have seen your labor and toil in journeyings for my name.” How precious it is to know that the Lord sees and knows the hard work His servants do in their callings and to build the kingdom.  If the Lord saw Brigham Young’s labors, then the Lord sees the labors of each of us. 

I also love that the Lord speaks of Brigham’s work as an “offering,” which makes me think of it almost in terms of animal sacrifice. Our work for the Lord a sacrifice too.  Some of my recent callings are requiring me to kill some animal, beastly part of my natural woman that I previously didn’t know about and offer it to the Lord to consume it in my labor.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could serve so as to merit the Lord telling us as He told Brigham Young that our offering is acceptable to Him?

Some might quibble with the word “acceptable” on the grounds that it sounds as if the offering is barely adequate, but I think I’d rather give an offering deemed acceptable than one that was rejected. 
Wednesday, February 22, 2017 0 comments

God Hath Visited His People

In the story of Jesus raising the son of the widow of Nain from the dead, it is interesting to read the response of the people to this miracle.

And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people. (Luke 7:16)

For the longest time, I read that and particularly the last line—“God hath visited his people”—would resonate with me because as a Christian I know Jesus is the Son of God, and it was literally true that God had visited His people.

But I started to get the sense that the Jews didn’t attach quite that meaning to it, otherwise many more of them would have worshipped Him than actually did. So it had to have a different kind of meaning to them and evoke something we have forgotten about or never knew.

So I turned to the footnotes. Exodus 3:16 cleared things up right off, since it was about the children of Israel in bondage to the Egyptians:

Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt: (emphasis added)

It seems that expression “the Lord visited His people” was used in a context when there is a miracle showing the Lord’s compassion in delivering (or being about to deliver) His people from a situation from which they can’t extract themselves.  

In the context of the miracle of raising the widow’s son from the dead, we have to remember there was no Social Security. The woman had already lost her husband, the main provider of the family, and the burden of providing had fallen on the son. Losing this son—her only son—meant she would likely become very poor. Not only was he restoring her precious child, by raising the widow’s son from the dead, Jesus saved her from a very difficult life of poverty.  He also saved the son from death. I really like how it emphasizes this saving when the scriptures say, “And he delivered him to his mother.”

The Jews probably saw this deliverance of the son from death and the deliverance of the widow from poverty and instantly took it as an indication that God saw the afflictions of His people Israel and was about to deliver them from the Romans like He’d delivered their fathers from the Egyptians.

There are many other instances in the Old Testament of the idea of God visiting His people in their afflictions with deliverance.  There are also about five instances of it in the Book of Mormon with the same kind of context.

I also ran across instances when prophets warned the people that God would visit them in His anger because of their wickedness, so the visits aren’t all happy. 

Today let’s take some time to think about how the Lord has helped us with our troubles so we can see that He visits us in our afflictions.

Monday, February 20, 2017 0 comments

When Hiram Page was deceived by Satan

I was recently reading over D&C 28 about the principles given to Oliver Cowdery of how he was to act and also with reference to Hiram Page and the deceptive revelations through his seer stone.

The Church’s new publication Revelations In Context has a neat essay about the overall principle of how all things must be done in order.

As I was reading different things about the story of Hiram Page, it became apparent that there were a number of things going on. 1) Hiram Page had his own seer stone. 2) He was receiving competing revelations, commandments, and prophecy from it. 3) He had written those things done, so he had competing writings as well. 4) He was teaching those things to others, setting himself up as a competing authority, even if he didn’t realize that was what he was doing.  That’s a lot of competing aspects.  I have to wonder if he would have been let alone if he had just used the seer stone for personal revelation, rather than general revelation.

In D&C 28, Oliver Cowdery was told of Hiram Page, “those things which he hath written from that stone are not of me and that Satan deceiveth him.” (v11).  In what way had Satan deceived Hiram Page?

The next verse gives some insight:

For, behold, these things have not been appointed unto him, neither shall anything be appointed unto any of this church contrary to the church covenants. (v12)

Evidently Hiram Page felt his gift with his seer stone meant he was appointed to receive those things for other people in the church. So the Lord had to tell him he wasn’t appointed.  It is tempting to think a special spiritual gift means we have been appointed to make some major contribution.  It gratifies the ego.

Happily, the next verse tells us some principles about how the Lord appoints people in His kingdom. “For all things must be done in order, and by common consent in the church, by the prayer of faith.” (v13)  Callings come by leaders in authority, by common consent by the members, and by ordination or setting apart. It’s a great safety feature in the kingdom of God, since it prevents a charismatic individual from usurping leadership and leading people away.  These principles are supposed to be a barrier to that occurrence, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen from time to time that people allow themselves to get led away anyway.

Throughout D&C 28, the Lord gives His response in the form of other principles to Oliver Cowdery to counteract various competing aspects of Hiram Page’s supposed revelations.

1)   Oliver was to be obedient to the things Joseph Smith received (not Hiram Page)(v3). 
2)   Oliver could speak by commandment to the church, but not write by commandment. Instead, he was to write by wisdom (v5). I suspect this was to prevent Oliver from falling into the same error Hiram Page had, of thinking his writings had more weight than they did. Writing by wisdom is non-coercive, speaks to the mind, and requires the writer to develop good persuasive skills. It allows the reader to receive edification, not just instructions, and freely exercise agency.
3)   Oliver was told he should not command “him who is at thy head, and at the head of the church” (v6).  Commandments flow downward, not upward.
4)   Oliver was told Joseph had the keys of the mysteries and the revelations that were sealed (v7). The image of having a key helps cement in the mind the idea that the Lord can give a prophet a spiritual power that He does not give to others. Yet, at the same time, Oliver is promised his own revelations.
5)   Oliver was also told the location of the city of Zion was not yet revealed. This was to counter Hiram Page’s false revelation/prophecy that supposedly revealed it. It is interesting that the Lord would give a revelation to tell what He has not yet revealed. That would stop any speculative discussion or false claims on the subject.
6)   Oliver was told that the things Hiram Page had written were not of the Lord. That put an end to any notion the competing writings had any virtue to them.

It is interesting that although Oliver Cowdery was influenced by the things Hiram Page had, D&C 28 instructed Oliver to do the work to reclaim Hiram Page from his errors. To me, this sets out the principle that when one realizes they have been deceived by a false prophet, they need to try to reclaim them and explain the error and where the deception lay.  Those who have escaped the deception may be able to help those still in it.  I also notice this discussion is to be private—“between him and thee alone” (v11)—in order to prevent public humiliation and preserve dignity.

I appreciate how these principles keep the kingdom of God safe from wolves in sheep’s clothing who would devour the flock. It makes it so we aren’t tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine blowing every direction. It helps us know instructions have much more weight coming from above us in the church leadership than from other directions. It helps us know that writings from the prophet have more weight than other writings. It helps us know that when there is a conflict between outside guidance and prophetic guidance, we should choose to follow the prophet.  It helps us know better how to instruct each other without presuming to command.

Saturday, February 18, 2017 0 comments

When Ammaron gives 10-year-old Mormon charge of the records

2 And about the time that Ammaron hid up the records unto the Lord, he came unto me, (I being about ten years of age, and I began to be learned somewhat after the manner of the learning of my people) and Ammaron said unto me: I perceive that thou art a sober child, and art quick to observe;
3 Therefore, when ye are about twenty and four years old I would that ye should remember the things that ye have observed concerning this people; and when ye are of that age go to the land Antum, unto a hill which shall be called Shim; and there have I deposited unto the Lord all the sacred engravings concerning this people.
4 And behold, ye shall take the plates of Nephi unto yourself, and the remainder shall ye leave in the place where they are; and ye shall engrave on the plates of Nephi all the things that ye have observed concerning this people. (Mormon 1:2-4)

It is extraordinary that Mormon was chosen for this role of record-keeping at age 10. Ammaron’s words about him are that he was a sober child and quick to observe. I have to wonder how much Ammaron had to search and do some observing himself as he was trying to decide who would be not just a good caretaker of the records, but who would be willing to write more for them and who would have edifying things to write.  It would have to be someone who was willing, who was able, who was committed, and who had the resources to take the time.  I think it is very likely that the Spirit helped Ammaron choose Mormon.

It is interesting to think about Ammaron’s faith as he gave this charge to a 10-year-old boy.  He had to have faith that Mormon would stay faithful, not only up to age 24, but for the rest of his life. If at any point Mormon had fallen away from the church, the records would have been in jeopardy and would have to be taken away from him.

I notice that once Ammaron found Mormon, he didn’t automatically dump all the records on him immediately. (And he couldn’t, since the records were hid up in the hill Shim, probably in enormous piles.) Instead, he gave him a charge to begin the record-keeping and writing of observations on the plates starting at age 24. This would give Mormon time to grow and mature into the role.

I wonder if Mormon had a really good memory, or if he began writing his observations immediately to prepare for that day and then had to condense when he turned 24.

I also wonder if maybe the charge of future record-keeping also acted as both a spur and a stabilizing factor in Mormon’s life, especially during the difficult times as he led the Nephites in their battles until the Lamanites wiped them out. Before he was 24, I wonder if he made important life choices according to whether they would fit him better spiritually for his record-keeping duties.  And once he retained the plates, I wonder if he ever found himself making choices according to whether it would help him write with the Spirit or not.

I’ve noticed writing this blog has done a bit of that for me, though I don’t see this blog as anywhere near the imperative for the future that Mormon’s record-keeping was.  For some reason I feel driven to write, even if I don’t know why. But I have noticed that keeping it going requires I live at a little higher level.  I’ve noticed I have to be more careful about the media I consume. I have to make good choices about what I do so I can be prepared to write.  It’s both a goad and a stabilizing blessing to me.

Perhaps you have writing that gives you the same feelings.
Thursday, February 16, 2017 0 comments

Mastering our Stories to Increase our Faith

I’ve been reading the book Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking when the Stakes are High, which is a good book.   I ran across something neat in it about relationships that has some broader applicability to faith, which I wanted to share.

Page 109 had a diagram showing a sequence that happens in our interpersonal relationships. 
1) We see and hear somebody do something, 
2) we tell ourselves a story about what that means, 
3) the meaning we create gives rise to feelings and emotions, which are often very strong, and 
4) we act on those feelings.

In terms of how relate to each other, this sequence can happen really fast.  Someone cuts us off on the freeway, we instantly tell ourselves the story, “He did that because he’s a jerk!”  Then we feel angry, and we may make some angry remark or yell, or even try to retaliate. (Yikes!)

The book says we can improve our relationships by noticing the stories we are telling ourselves and then thinking of alternate stories that might fit the facts to explain how a normal good person would act that way.  Thus, the person who cut us off on the freeway might be in a big hurry for something very important. His wife might be having a baby. Maybe he found out someone he loves is in trouble. Maybe there’s an event he has to go to and others made him late.  Better alternate stories help us interact with respect and kindness instead of attacking or withdrawing.

Now, to apply this to faith…  We tell ourselves stories about what Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are like and what they can do to help us.  Those stories have a big effect and sometimes we don’t realize how big the effect is.

There are people who don’t believe in God who tell themselves stories about how God should act and they either criticize what is happening, or they come to disbelieve He exists altogether. There are all kinds of ways they do this, which I don’t intend to get into now. 

There are all kinds of narratives in the scriptures that tell us how God has worked in the past that help us get at least a small idea of the many different things He does to intervene, how He can help, and so on, so that we can tell ourselves better stories about His character and ways.

Sometimes those stories we tell ourselves may get out of balance.  If we tell ourselves stories about God’s judgment, but none about His mercy, we will be scared of Him and needlessly feel we are unworthy.  If we tell stories about God’s mercy, but none about His judgment, we will not have the appropriate concern about our accountability and we will neglect to repent as we should. 

If we tell ourselves stories about God’s help, but not about how He gives us space to act and make choices, we will not learn to make decisions and try our hardest, and we may also wonder why God doesn’t intervene more.  On the other hand, if we tell ourselves stories about how He gives us space, but not about His willingness to help, we will neglect to turn and ask His help when He could give it.  I could go on about different stories we tell ourselves about God and how they affect the extent we exercise our faith. 

Another factor is that we also tell internal stories about ourselves and what we can and can’t do and why.  Those stories create emotion and ultimately affect how we act because they affect how we see ourselves and our possibilities.  Knowing we are a child of God and that we have the seeds of godhood in us opens up soooo many avenues for growth and development.  But sometimes we get pulled down by discouragement and doubt and fear and frustration and begin to tell ourselves stories like:   I can’t…or I’ll never make it… or I’m just too broken… or I can’t get over this sin… or something like that.

There have been some things in my life I feel stuck about. It has occurred to me from reading this section of the book that I need to think about what kind of stories I’m telling myself and see if I can find an alternate story that fits better and will allow me to take appropriate action and get unstuck.

I will give a small example of one story I have told myself in the past that has caused me problems.  On occasion I have been asked to give a talk or teach a lesson in church. When that happens I throw myself into preparation, telling myself that I have to give the best talk or the best lesson EVER.  It’s like I have something to prove. There’s also a measure of pride in there too. But then this starts to cause problems if I think the material or the lesson activities are not up to my idea of “the best EVER.”  I start thinking I will fail, and this causes me major angst.  And I realize that my pride is getting in the way too.  The toxic story I have told myself is, “I have to be the best or I will fail, and failure means I’m unimportant.”   You can see that’s totally wrong, right?

Eventually I realized that perfectionism was a big part of the problem. So I had to tell myself a different story that would drive me to prepare carefully, but help me remember that the Spirit is the real teacher.  I had a little breakthrough when I discovered and proved that when I give my best efforts, ordinary results actually produces the same satisfaction for me as extraordinary results. In terms of lessons or talks, I know the results on myself, but I don't know the results on other listeners, so I have to leave that in the Lord's hands.

So I settled on telling myself the following: “I will do my best to prepare, and I will give an ordinary talk [or lesson], and Heavenly Father will make it awesome.”  I learned to give myself permission to have ordinary and average results, and that removes the stress because instead I rely on the Lord to make something better out of what I’ve done.   It gives me the satisfaction that comes from the chance to be an instrument in the Lord’s hands, it helps me find humility, and it gives credit to the Lord for His great work.

If you’re feeling stuck, and it doesn’t seem like God is helping, think about the stories you are telling yourself about your obstacles and also about God.  Are there better stories you can tell that will generate more faith in God and faith to act and grow?

Thursday, February 9, 2017 0 comments

“The Perfect Plan to Happiness”: Thoughts on President Monson's October 2016 general conference talk

President Monson's talks have been shorter the last few conferences than they've usually been. This makes them both simple and difficult to study. Simple because there is less to look at, but difficult because sometimes it seems like there isn't much to bite into. But that should only challenge us to search for and find the meat we are meant to feast on from it.

So, I'm taking the challenge to study this talk and comment on it. President Monson's words will be in blue, mine will be in black.

My beloved brothers and sisters, both here in the Conference Center and throughout the world, how grateful I am for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you this morning.

Fifty-two years ago, in July 1964, I had an assignment in New York City during the time the World’s Fair was hosted there. Early one morning I visited the Mormon Pavilion at the fair. I arrived just prior to a showing of the Church’s film Man’s Search for Happiness, a portrayal of the plan of salvation which has since become a Church classic. I sat next to a young man who was perhaps 35 years of age. We spoke briefly. He was not a member of our Church. Then the lights dimmed, and the show commenced.

As a preliminary note, one of the things I learned from studying this experience President Monson shares is how good a man he was, even 52 years ago. President Monson does not toot his own horn, but when I read between the lines here, I get the sense that he didn't have to stop by the Mormon Pavilion at the World's Fair. He also didn't have to take the time to watch the film “Man's Search for Happiness.” It is likely that he had viewed it quite a bit before then as a church leader in preparation for its release. And yet, he wanted to see it again. And I notice he calls it “a Church classic.”  To me that suggests that for him it is a film to be viewed again and again. Perhaps he was interested in gauging the audience reaction. Or it could be that he wanted to rejoice in the message of the Plan of Salvation.

I also notice that when President Monson went to see this film, instead of keeping to himself, he took the trouble to get to know the young man he sat next to, enough to find out that the young man wasn't a member of the Church. President Monson set a fine example of being friendly and out-going, meeting new people and talking to them. Perhaps he hoped to find someone who was interested in learning more about the church and wanted to make friends so that if the young man was interested in learning more, he could be there to help share the gospel. Or maybe he was just friendly.

We listened to the voice of the narrator as he posed the poignant and universal questions: Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where do I go when I leave this life? All ears strained to hear the answers, and all eyes were fixed on the images portrayed. A description of our premortal life was given, along with an explanation of our purpose on earth. We witnessed a touching depiction of the passing from this life of an elderly grandfather and of his glorious reunion with loved ones who had preceded him to the spirit world.

Stop and think about those questions—Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where do I go when I leave this life? Do you still think about these questions and their answers? Do you think about how what you do everyday fits in with the grand eternal principles of the Plan? For me, sometimes it seems like the things I do are so rooted in the here-and-now that I have a hard time seeing their connection to eternity. (Or maybe that's a sign I need to re-examine my priorities.)

As part of my study of this talk, I actually went and searched online to see if I could find the film “Man'sSearch for Happiness” and watched it. It was delightful, with its early '60s vibe, but it was also powerful. The depiction of all the temporal distractions of pleasure, vice, wealth, materialism, and vanity as carnival amusements really helped underscore their fleeting nature. All of us want happiness more lasting than that. (And who can forget the ticking clocks?) I loved that the film pointed to the realities of love and family, work , and service to others as sources of more lasting happiness.

It seems President Monson took some time to watch the faces of the other people watching the film to see how interested and attentive they were.

At the conclusion of this beautiful portrayal of our Heavenly Father’s plan for us, the crowd silently filed out, many visibly touched by the message of the film. The young visitor next to me did not arise. I asked if he had enjoyed the presentation. His emphatic response: “This is the truth!”

It is interesting that President Monson carefully watches the reaction of the crowd around him after the movie too. He noticed they were touched. The young man he had made friends with reacted a bit differently. While others left, the young man stayed sitting, perhaps wanting to retain the spiritual feelings that had been stirred. But not only that, he also verbally affirmed and witnessed to the truth of what he had seen. (Hello, opportunity for missionary work!)

Our Father’s plan for our happiness and our salvation is shared by our missionaries throughout the world. Not all who hear this divine message accept and embrace it. However, men and women everywhere, just like my young friend at the New York World’s Fair, recognize its truths, and they plant their feet on the path that will lead them safely home. Their lives are forever changed.

We might ask ourselves, “How do I react to the Plan of Salvation?” Do we see it as a beautiful story that brings a tear or two to our eyes, or do we recognize its truth and then strive for the rest of our lives to follow it? President Monson says those who plant their feet on that path have lives that are forever changed. Can we say that about our own lives?

Because I grew up in the church, I don't remember exactly when I first heard the Plan of Salvation. But my mom told me a story that showed me that learning about it really did affect me when I was a child. My mom told me that at one point in my young childhood, she was having a lot of trouble with me and my little brother behaving badly, and she didn't know what to do. She prayed a lot about it, and she got the impression that she should teach a Family Home Evening lesson about the Plan of Salvation. So she did that. And she noticed it made a big difference in my and my brother's behavior. She said she could tell by how we improved that learning the Plan of Salvation motivated us. We wanted to be good and choose the right so that we could go to the celestial kingdom someday. (I'm soo glad she told me that story.)

I notice that President Monson doesn't give all the particulars of the Plan of Salvation in this talk, so it is sort of a teaser for the real thing. It should encourage us to study the Plan out for ourselves. Can we articulate it for ourselves? Are we ready to share it with others when the opportunity arises? I remember one time a few years ago I was in the middle of giving some spontaneous service to a neighbor and he asked me, “Why is there evil?” and the best way I could think of to answer that question was to tell him about pre-mortal life and the Plan of Salvation.

On another occasion, I was in the public library reading a book and a man came by and struck up a conversation with me. He was a sort of drifter and jobless, and we got into a conversation about life. He expressed that he had learned about different religions and he was confused by all the different things and he wondered what he was supposed to do next. I listened to him for some time and eventually in our conversation he asked me what I believed. I approached it from the questions of “Where did we come from, why are we here, and where are we going?” When I told him he was a child of God and we were sent here to become like God, he got incredibly excited and told me he had just learned a ton from me, and he knew there was a reason for wanting to talk to me. I told him about the resurrection, the judgment, about the degrees of glory, basically following the outline of the Plan of Salvation and where his questions led. Seeing how excited he got underlined to me how special it is to know what we know and what a difference it can make for people. (I don't know the rest of his story, but I am happy I was able to help with needed light at that time.)

Essential to the plan is our Savior, Jesus Christ. Without His atoning sacrifice, all would be lost. It is not enough, however, merely to believe in Him and His mission. We need to work and learn, search and pray, repent and improve. We need to know God’s laws and live them. We need to receive His saving ordinances. Only by so doing will we obtain true, eternal happiness.

This paragraph has the really practical bits in it, all compacted together in a list. (It also happens that a lot of it is a quote from the film “Man's Search for Happiness.”) It goes so fast that it easy to just dismiss it, but I hope you'll take the time to think about each thing on the list and how each thing contributes to lasting happiness.

What do we need to do?
  • Believe in Christ.
  • Work
  • Learn
  • Search
  • Pray
  • Repent
  • Improve
  • Know God's laws
  • Live God's laws
  • Receive God's saving ordinances.

How are we doing on these things? Honest self-evaluation is key here. These are things that can bring us real, lasting happiness. There are thousands of self-help books out in the world that promise their special formulas for happiness, but here we have a prophet of God telling us best way in the bare space of a paragraph. Can we look back on the experiences of our lives and see the truth of what he says? I'm sure we can.

We are blessed to have the truth. We have a mandate to share the truth. Let us live the truth, that we might merit all that the Father has for us. He does nothing save it be for our benefit. He has told us, “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”1

It is one thing to know the truth, but it is the challenge of a lifetime to live it.

I love that statement--”He [Heavenly Father] does nothing save it be for our benefit.” That is both a challenging doctrine when going through an extended trials and tests, especially if it seems like following the commandments has placed us in that difficult situation. But it can be also be very comforting and help us develop patience and trust.

From the depths of my soul and in all humility, I testify of the great gift which is our Father’s plan for us. It is the one perfect path to peace and happiness both here and in the world to come.
My brothers and sisters, I leave with you my love and my blessing as I close, and I do so in the name of our Savior and Redeemer, even Jesus Christ, amen.

I love that-- the Plan of Salvation is “the one perfect path to peace and happiness both here and in the world to come.”

Suggestions for teaching:
--Show the film “Man's Search for Happiness”
--Ask your class, “Do you remember the first time you heard the Plan of Salvation? What did you feel? How did it affect you?”
--Ask your class, “How have you been changed since gaining a testimony of the Plan of Salvation?”
--Ask your class, "In what ways does the world say happiness can be found?" (make a list on the board of the class's responses.) Ask, "Why are these things fleeting?"  Ask, "How does this compare to the ways that President Monson and the film 'Man's Search for Happiness' say happiness is to be found?"
--Hand out sheets of paper to the class and ask them to make a list of activities they commonly participate in during the week. Ask them to see if they can classify the items on their list into the various categories of actions that President Monson and the film “Man's Search for Happiness” say will help us gain lasting happiness. Challenge your class to try to add more into their life of what will bring lasting happiness and remove activities that only give fleeting pleasure.
--Share experiences when you have taught the Plan of Salvation to others and encourage your class to share their experiences as well.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017 0 comments

The New Testament in Christ's Blood and Why This is So Revolutionary

19 ¶And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. 20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. (Luke 22:19-20)

It struck me as I read this recently what it meant for Jesus to say that the cup (or the wine in it) was the new testament in His blood which was shed for us.

Up to that point, the major way that covenant Israel had an ordinantial testimony of the Spirit about the redemption of the Messiah came from offering animal sacrifices and eating the covenant meal of meat from it.

Here Jesus declares that from that point onward, covenant Israel would obtain that witness of the Spirit—the nourishing, healing, renewing witness working to sanctify them--from the sacrament. That is amazing. It's subtle, but incredible.

Who is the only one who can tell the Holy Ghost to change which ordinances to testify during and do sanctifying work during? Only another member of the Godhead. It's a major change of systemic spiritual blessing declared right there. Absolutely revolutionary.
Sunday, February 5, 2017 0 comments

Of tenets thou shalt not talk

Some verses in a section directed to Martin Harris:
29 And thou shalt declare glad tidings, yea, publish it upon the mountains, and upon every high place, and among every people that thou shalt be permitted to see.
30 And thou shalt do it with all humility, trusting in me, reviling not against revilers. 31 And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost. (D&C 19:20-31)
I have always wondered about that instruction, “of tenets thou shalt not talk.” The footnote for it goes to 2 Timothy 2:23, which warns Timothy to avoid foolish and unlearned questions. But that doesn't seem to quite square with my intuitive feeling about the word “tenet” and what it means. To me, tenet means a belief or a principle.

I checked my dictionary on tenet, and it says, “a principle, belief, or doctrine generally held to be true; especially one held in common by members of an organization, group, or profession.” That doesn't sound like a foolish or unlearned question to me. And if so, why then does the scripture advise declaring repentance, faith, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost? Aren't those tenets of our faith?

I actually ran into something from a current general conference talk that clarified the issue. Elder Dallin H. Oaks in his October 2016 talk “Sharing the Restored Gospel” said:

We need to remember that ' people learn when they're ready to learn, not when we're ready to teach them.' What we are interested in, like the important additional doctrinal teachings in the restored Church, usually isn't what others are interested in. Others typically want the results of the doctrine, not the doctrine. As they observe or experience the effects of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives, they feel the Spirit and begin to be interested in the doctrine. They may also be interested when they are seeking more happiness, closeness to God, or a better understanding of the purpose of life. Therefore, we must carefully and prayerfully seek discernment on how to inquire about others' interest to learn more.

So it sounds like the scripture was saying that in a very abbreviated way—keep to the gospel basics, the first principles. That way we don't force people to drink from a fire hose what should come sip by sip.
Wednesday, February 1, 2017 0 comments

Some Mysteries of Godliness for Ending Error

And if thou wilt inquire, thou shalt know mysteries which are great and marvelous; therefore thou shalt exercise thy gift, that thou mayest find out mysteries, that thou mayest bring many to the knowledge of the truth, yea, convince them of the error of their ways. (D&C 6:11)

This verse intrigued me recently, and I noticed that along with the promise of knowing and finding out mysteries if we inquire, it also states that the purpose of finding out mysteries is to bring people to know the truth and convince them of where they’ve erred. I think that’s really interesting, since it implies there are mysteries of God’s kingdom that help us forsake our errors and overcome certain stumbling blocks in our lives that come out of ignorance or the prevalence of the traditions of men.  Mysteries can be useful and practical, instead of speculative, as we often think.

In fact, I’ve been noticing how many principles of revelation are in D&C 6. Since it was given to a world with no authoritative guidance on how to prepare for revelation or how to discern revelation, D&C 6 is itself full of mysteries.

Another thing I notice in this verse is the statement “thou shalt exercise thy gift, that thou shalt find out mysteries.”  It makes me ask, “How do I exercise my gift?” From the perspective of a church member, I immediately think the gift referred to is the gift of the Holy Ghost, but I don’t know if I exercise that gift as much as I hope that it exercises me.  What do you think? How do we exercise the gift?  Do you think of exercise here in terms of just using the gift, or in terms of trying to build a muscle?