Tuesday, September 26, 2017 0 comments

The Urim & Thummim Principle for Internet use


Now Ammon said unto him: I can assuredly tell thee, O king [Limhi], of a man that can translate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer. (Mosiah 8:13)

The context for this verse is Ammon telling King Limhi that there is a seer who can translate the gold plates that were found.  It is neat to think that we have prophets, seers, and revelators leading our church today, but I think there are principles here that can apply in our lives, particularly concerning our individual internet use and safety.

Note the danger that Ammon highlights—“lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish”.  We don’t know how a seer might perish from wrong use of the Urim & Thummim, but the same danger certainly applies for internet use.  There is the danger of looking at thinks we ought not, as well as spending so much time looking at less consequential things that one fritters away their life.

The principle implied for wise use of the Urim & Thummim is to be purposeful about use, according to commandment. It doesn’t specify whether it is God’s commandment or man’s commandment, but you get the idea that since it is a gift from God, you would use it according to God’s commandment. I think the same is true for use of the internet.

The situations seem a bit different in the frequency of use. The Urim & Thummim seems like something that would be used rarely (except we don’t have record of all the times it was used), whereas the internet is so embedded in our society now. Still, the principle of purposeful use according to God’s commandment (or following God’s commandments) is useful for keeping us out of trouble when we use the internet today.
Sunday, September 24, 2017 0 comments

Walking in the light, even if into danger



7 Then after that saith he [Jesus] to his disciples, Let us go into Judæa again.
8 His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?
9 Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.
10 But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. (John 11:7-10)

This little story always puzzled me. Was it saying somehow Jesus was reassured of His safety because He could see? What could He see? Did He know what would happen and that made it so He could avoid it?

I had to pray about this one. Gradually I realized Jesus was saying that because He had instructions from Heavenly Father to go to Judea again, by following those instructions (walking in the light), He would be okay, even if it looked like He was walking into danger. He trusted the revelation over the appearance of danger.

But if He hadn’t had that revelation, going there would be like walking into the dark with lots of things to trip over.

When you think about the kind of faith Jesus shows to do that, it is AMAZING. It’s a great example for us. I aspire to that kind of faith.
Friday, September 1, 2017 0 comments

Re-examining Revelation 12


1 And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.
13 And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.
14 And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.
15 And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.
16 And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.
17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 12)

Our traditional interpretation of Revelation 12 in the church is according to the chapter heading: “John sees the imminent apostasy of the Church—He also sees the War in Heaven in the beginning when Satan was cast out—He sees the continuation of that war on earth.”

This interpretation basically reduces Revelation 12 to an interlude wherein the Lord backtracks and shares with John various bits of information that He wants the Saints to know about what has happened before the frame of the events set up in the Book of Revelation.  With our understanding of the three degrees of glory, we may interpret the sun-clothed women as the church, and the man child as Christ, who ascended to heaven, and then the fleeing of the church into the wilderness as the apostasy.

However, there are some things in the text that subtly create problems with this interpretation.  For instance, v1 speaks of the appearance of a great wonder in heaven (the woman). The location is a little odd. If the woman represents the church, why is the woman located in heaven and not on the earth? 

Or if the woman is in heaven (in the spirit realm), how do those on the earth see her to wonder over her? The text seems to suggest that this wonder will be generally visible. 

For another example, if the woman represents the church and the child represents Christ, why speak of this woman and the man child before recounting the war in heaven when Michael and his angels fought the devil and his angels and cast them out, which is something we identify with premortality? Why skip around so much in the timeline?  

Or, if the woman represents the church and the child represents the political kingdom of God, what good does the child do to anyone if it is caught up to the throne of God? That seems to put it in a place where it won’t have much influence, since there are a lot of people that prefer to ignore Jesus, who also ascended into heaven. If the political kingdom of God is formed then removed from earth by God, that would be demoralizing to those righteous who remain. (It would be like restoring the priesthood, creating the offices, and then translating all priesthood holders so they don’t remain to bless the church.)

Another question I had over this interpretation in the chapter is what function it serves to help the Saints in the last days, either with instruction or with reassurance. What does it tell us prophetically that we can’t get elsewhere?

 It tells us the church will be persecuted. Okay, we already know that.
It tells us there was a war in heaven. Okay, we already know that too, from the Pearl of Great Price. Also from Isaiah.
It tells us the Saints overcome Satan with the atonement, their testimony, and their willingness to sacrifice their lives. Okay, but how does that help us know what’s to come?

Suddenly, after considering these things, I started to ask myself, “ What if it is NOT about the past, but actually about the future? What if this chapter is actually still telling us about events to come on the earth? What if we’ve all misunderstood this chapter?

Ooo! Excitement! I read the chapter again. But then I was puzzled. If these events are in the future, what then are we to make of how it speaks of a war in heaven with Michael casting out the devil and his angels?  And if there will be war in heaven, how would we on the earth know it?

That’s when I realized heaven must be used symbolically as a term for something high up, something ruling. And in fact, it is a very good symbol for government. So if there is war in heaven, it can be telling us of a war in the government between forces of good and forces of evil.

Ooo! Definitely re-examination is needed!

(Fair warning: This interpretation is going to go into completely uncharted territory. You don’t have to believe it. It is completely unofficial, nontraditional, and possibly even kooky, but I’m going to run with it as far as it takes me and see where it goes and see we can get anything useful or helpful from it.  I reserve the right to change my mind about it at any time on it in the future and interpret it to mean something different from what follows.)

So then, when the beginning tells us of the woman that appeared as a wonder in heaven, that may tell us that there are righteous forces that appear in government at this difficult time. (The woman can’t be the church, because the church as a whole body can’t be elected to government, kids and all. But it could be a group of righteous members who are elected or appointed.)   Then the second wonder in heaven—the great red dragon—appears to oppose the woman. When the dragon draws a third part of the stars and casts them to earth, that could represent the evil forces somehow firing or impeaching or forcing resignation of part of the government that opposes them.

The woman is in labor and about to be delivered of a man child that will rule the nations with a rod of iron, and the dragon waits for the birth, wanting to devour the child as soon as it is born. This says to me that the good forces of government are trying to figure out who is the best one to rule over them. It could be an election caucus.  A woman in labor sounds like a great symbol for the messy nomination and choosing process of politics. But the dragon waits to see who comes out of it so they know who to target. The dragon wants to devour the man child, possibly meaning it wants to absorb him into the beast’s network by getting it to switch sides or making agreements that will restrict him from moving against the dragon, or by corrupting him, or whatever.

So the woman brings forth the man child who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron, and he is caught up to God and to his throne. 

What?

All along, we have assumed this being caught up to God’s throne represents Christ, His ascension, and His rule from the heavens. But if this man child is supposed to be someone in the future who rules, how will he really rule if he’s literally caught up to heaven? It is as if he is taken away before he can actually do anything to help.   HOWEVER. If this is actually symbolically talking about a political situation, then a man child caught up to the throne of God has actually ascended to power on earth and has been put into office!  And if he rules all nations, then calling that political position of power “the throne of God” seems like a pretty accurate term, even if it sounds a little blasphemous to us.

But if so, then why would the woman then flee into the wilderness? It will seem as though she has won, if her man child is in power.  Hmmm.  I don’t know… I would guess that perhaps those who put the man child in power anticipate some sort of backlash, so they hide from it.  At any rate, wherever they flee to, it has been prepared as a nourishing place, even though they are on the margins, outside of the main population centers.

Then there is a war in heaven, or a war in the government between Michael and his angels and the dragon and his angels. The upshot is that the great dragon is cast out with his angels. We are told they deceived the whole world, so they did a lot of lying to everyone. We are also told they were an “accuser of our brethren…which accused them before our God day and night,” so that hints the forces of evil have been prosecuting attorneys who tried to swamp the government with false accusations and with frivolous, malicious lawsuits and paperwork that wasted time and persecuted the righteous who were the defendants of said lawsuits. 

(Such a battle is not without precedent in history. There is the story in the Book of Mormon of Alma and Amulek who were put on trial by Zeezrom in Ammonihah and who warned the people the unrighteousness of their judges and lawyers were bringing destruction upon them. There is also a brief story of a time before the coming of Christ when judges were unlawfully condemning the righteous and there was an attempt to try them for their crimes.)

We are told the Saints overcome the dragon with the atonement, with their testimony, and with their willingness to suffer even to death for their beliefs. So this tells us the Saints need to stand strong. (This interpretation makes religious liberty very important, doesn’t it?)

The result of the war is that the devil (or the beast) is cast down to the earth along with his followers, meaning they are removed from power. (Hooray!) No wonder the Saints celebrate. But the dragon is mad and he persecutes the woman, since that was the source of his loss of power. The woman flees to the wilderness and is nourished, and the earth helps the woman when the dragon pours floods out of his mouth after her. (The floods may represent lies.)  So it seems there are two exits into the wilderness by forces of good.

And then the dragon is still angry, so he goes to make war against the remnant of the woman’s seed who keep the commandments and the testimony of Jesus. This tells me that the dragon targets the children. How does he target the children? The next chapter Revelation 13 tells of a beast (nearly identical to the dragon) that rises out of the sea and demands worship from everyone. It is possible the war against the woman’s children consists of trying to usurp their admiration and draw their wonder so that they stop worshiping God and worship the beast instead.

So… how does this interpretation of Revelation 12 help us? It shows us a struggle in government between good and evil. It shows us the dragon can be cast out, and it shows us that for that to happen, we have to have firm testimonies and be willing to sacrifice our lives for the truth, even if it gets us in legal trouble. (This is another reason why we need to defend religious freedom.) It also tells us it is important for us to teach our children right and protect them.

Final note #1: Probably some of Trump's enthusiastic followers would like to associate this situation with Trump. I don't though, especially since he doesn't rule all nations. I think the situation is still to come.

Final note #2: On the topic of religious freedom, I think it is important for us to defend it today because we have a whole generation of children who are starting to grow up in this time of incivility. We don’t want them to get the idea that this general atmosphere of negativity and hate is normal.  We don’t want it to be all they have ever known.  If they think that kind of thing is normal, they will do it too, and worse. We don’t want that.