Friday, October 19, 2018 0 comments

Looking for the Lord to Come

There’s a scripture I’ve run across that in the past I’ve interpreted as referring to the second coming of Christ, but now I see also fits into the context of missionary work

And the poor and the meek shall have the gospel preached unto them, and they shall be looking forth for the time of my coming, for it is nigh at hand— (D&C 35:15)

This perfectly describes those situations and stories we’ve heard about people who have had religious questions and they reach out to God, pleading for the truth, pleading for something more in their lives. And then, in a few days (or hours, or even minutes) they are visited by the missionaries and are ready to receive the gospel. These people are looking for God to come and bring them greater light, and they see the missionaries as messengers from God. They see God has answered them, and they see the coming of the gospel was so close. All those things are encapsulated in this verse.

How does it help us? It shows us that there are people who are prepared to hear the gospel, and we just need to talk to them and invite them. If they are ready, they will respond. We don’t know what is going on in their lives to prepare people, but there are people who are prepared to hear.

It also tells us that if we are going to help find them, we need to be meek as well. We need to be humble and ready to follow the impressions of the Spirit, even if they seem to not make sense. (If they made sense, why would we need the Spirit?)
Wednesday, October 17, 2018 0 comments

Verses about the Last Days

87 For not many days hence and the earth shall tremble and reel to and fro as a drunken man; and the sun shall hide his face, and shall refuse to give light; and the moon shall be bathed in blood; and the stars shall become exceedingly angry, and shall cast themselves down as a fig that falleth from off a fig tree.
88 And after your testimony cometh wrath and indignation upon the people.
89 For after your testimony cometh the testimony of earthquakes, that shall cause groanings in the midst of her, and men shall fall upon the ground and shall not be able to stand.
90 And also cometh the testimony of the voice of thunderings, and the voice of lightnings, and the voice of tempests, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds.
91 And all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people.
92 And angels shall fly through the midst of heaven, crying with a loud voice, sounding the trump of God, saying: Prepare ye, prepare ye, O inhabitants of the earth; for the judgment of our God is come. Behold, and lo, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
93 And immediately there shall appear a great sign in heaven, and all people shall see it together.
94 And another angel shall sound his trump, saying: That great church, the mother of abominations, that made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, that persecuteth the saints of God, that shed their blood—she who sitteth upon many waters, and upon the islands of the sea—behold, she is the tares of the earth; she is bound in bundles; her bands are made strong, no man can loose them; therefore, she is ready to be burned. And he shall sound his trump both long and loud, and all nations shall hear it.
95 And there shall be silence in heaven for the space of half an hour; and immediately after shall the curtain of heaven be unfolded, as a scroll is unfolded after it is rolled up, and the face of the Lord shall be unveiled;
96 And the saints that are upon the earth, who are alive, shall be quickened and be caught up to meet him.
97 And they who have slept in their graves shall come forth, for their graves shall be opened; and they also shall be caught up to meet him in the midst of the pillar of heaven—
98 They are Christ’s, the first fruits, they who shall descend with him first, and they who are on the earth and in their graves, who are first caught up to meet him; and all this by the voice of the sounding of the trump of the angel of God.
99 And after this another angel shall sound, which is the second trump; and then cometh the redemption of those who are Christ’s at his coming; who have received their part in that prison which is prepared for them, that they might receive the gospel, and be judged according to men in the flesh.
100 And again, another trump shall sound, which is the third trump; and then come the spirits of men who are to be judged, and are found under condemnation;
101 And these are the rest of the dead; and they live not again until the thousand years are ended, neither again, until the end of the earth.
102 And another trump shall sound, which is the fourth trump, saying: There are found among those who are to remain until that great and last day, even the end, who shall remain filthy still.
103 And another trump shall sound, which is the fifth trump, which is the fifth angel who committeth the everlasting gospel—flying through the midst of heaven, unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people;
104 And this shall be the sound of his trump, saying to all people, both in heaven and in earth, and that are under the earth—for every ear shall hear it, and every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess, while they hear the sound of the trump, saying: Fear God, and give glory to him who sitteth upon the throne, forever and ever; for the hour of his judgment is come.
105 And again, another angel shall sound his trump, which is the sixth angel, saying: She is fallen who made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication; she is fallen, is fallen!
106 And again, another angel shall sound his trump, which is the seventh angel, saying: It is finished; it is finished! The Lamb of God hath overcome and trodden the wine-press alone, even the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God.
107 And then shall the angels be crowned with the glory of his might, and the saints shall be filled with his glory, and receive their inheritance and be made equal with him.
108 And then shall the first angel again sound his trump in the ears of all living, and reveal the secret acts of men, and the mighty works of God in the first thousand years.
109 And then shall the second angel sound his trump, and reveal the secret acts of men, and the thoughts and intents of their hearts, and the mighty works of God in the second thousand years—
110 And so on, until the seventh angel shall sound his trump; and he shall stand forth upon the land and upon the sea, and swear in the name of him who sitteth upon the throne, that there shall be time no longer; and Satan shall be bound, that old serpent, who is called the devil, and shall not be loosed for the space of a thousand years.
111 And then he shall be loosed for a little season, that he may gather together his armies.
112 And Michael, the seventh angel, even the archangel, shall gather together his armies, even the hosts of heaven.
113 And the devil shall gather together his armies; even the hosts of hell, and shall come up to battle against Michael and his armies.
114 And then cometh the battle of the great God; and the devil and his armies shall be cast away into their own place, that they shall not have power over the saints any more at all.
115 For Michael shall fight their battles, and shall overcome him who seeketh the throne of him who sitteth upon the throne, even the Lamb.
116 This is the glory of God, and the sanctified; and they shall not any more see death. (D&C 88:87-116)

In these verses are a whole bunch of prophesies about the last days, about calamities to come on the earth, and then v94-106 tells of seven angels sounding their trumpets to announce the fall of Babylon and the progressive resurrection of various parties based on their level of righteousness. After that comes v108-110 telling of another seven angels sounding their trumps to tell of the secret acts of men in the various thousand-year eras of history. Then the binding of Satan and his loosing after another thousand years, with the final fight of Michael against the devil and armies.

Before I studied the Book of Revelation in depth, it seemed like these verses were a sort of translation of Revelation into a simpler form. I thought it was supposed to overlay the top of Revelation and readers were supposed to find corresponding points.

But after having studied Revelation a lot more, I now read this and I can see it is a mishmash of a bunch of different elements of Revelation, but they are all out of order. The Book of Revelation only has one sequence of angels sounding their trumpets, but these verses have two. These verses have all the dead resurrected before the final battle when Satan is bound, but Revelation has it the other way around.  Revelation has the angel warning there will be time no longer in the sixth trumpet, but these verses have him doing that in the second set of seven trumpets, in the last trumpet, just before Satan is bound (v110).

So what are we to make of this? Unbelievers might say Joseph Smith was making it up, but we who believe he was a prophet know differently. We dare not say he didn’t know what he was doing, especially since he said the Book of Revelation is the plainest of all books. And if it is plain, then he wouldn’t have then gone and “messed it up” like this, if this is supposed to be an improvement.  I am personally forced to conclude that he was using the imagery of Revelation to reveal additional things.

V92-106 tells of a sequence of different groups of people who are resurrected at different times based on their level of righteousness. We may think this is obvious now, but it would not have been so in Joseph Smith’s day. Also, the Book of Revelation only says the righteous are raised at Christ’s coming and then the rest later after the final battle against Satan. The trumpet sequence of seven here shows us the resurrection is a sequential process.

V108-110 has yet another sequence of angelic trumpets sounding to announce the secret things of the various thousand years of history that will be revealed. This is another thing that is probably obvious to us now, but again, it may not have been obvious before. The Bible is pretty clear about the doctrine that God sees all and knows our doings, our words, our thoughts, our intents, and our desires. But it is not clear on the doctrine that all these things will eventually be revealed to everyone else as well. The Book of Revelation only says the books will be opened and everyone will be judged according to what is written in the books concerning their works. But these verses tell us all will be revealed to everyone. And if so, then we need to be especially careful about everything we do, say, think, intend, and want. Sooner or later, everyone will know all the secrets of everyone on the planet who has ever lived, whether good or bad. We will be very happy if we have repented of all our sins and if all we have done, said, or thought is beyond reproach.
Monday, October 8, 2018 0 comments

The Covering of the Tabernacle Equipment

5 And when the camp setteth forward, Aaron shall come, and his sons, and they shall take down the covering veil, and cover the ark of testimony with it:
6 And shall put thereon the covering of badgers’ skins, and shall spread over it a cloth wholly of blue, and shall put in the staves thereof.
7 And upon the table of shewbread they shall spread a cloth of blue, and put thereon the dishes, and the spoons, and the bowls, and covers to cover withal: and the continual bread shall be thereon:
8 And they shall spread upon them a cloth of scarlet, and cover the same with a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put in the staves thereof.
9 And they shall take a cloth of blue, and cover the candlestick of the light, and his lamps, and his tongs, and his snuffdishes, and all the oil vessels thereof, wherewith they minister unto it:
10 And they shall put it and all the vessels thereof within a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put it upon a bar.
11 And upon the golden altar they shall spread a cloth of blue, and cover it with a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put to the staves thereof:
12 And they shall take all the instruments of ministry, wherewith they minister in the sanctuary, and put them in a cloth of blue, and cover them with a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put them on a bar:
13 And they shall take away the ashes from the altar, and spread a purple cloth thereon:
14 And they shall put upon it all the vessels thereof, wherewith they minister about it, even the censers, the fleshhooks, and the shovels, and the basins, all the vessels of the altar; and they shall spread upon it a covering of badgers’ skins, and put to the staves of it. (Numbers 4:5-14)
In these verses as I was reading I noticed that the Tabernacle equipment was to be covered before it was moved. This emphasized its sacredness and how it was set apart for holy use.

But I also noticed that the manner of covering the objects was not always the same. Moving inward:
·      Altar of sacrifice – covered by purple cloth, then altar vessels/censers/fleshhooks/shovels/ basins, then badger skin.
·      Instruments of ministry in sanctuary – covered by blue cloth, then badger skin.
·      Golden altar of incense – covered by cloth of blue, then badger skin.
·      Candlestick, tongs, snuffers, oil vessels – covered in blue, then badger skin.
·      Shewbread table – covered by blue cloth, then table utensils & shewbread, then scarlet cloth, then badger skin.
·      Ark of the covenant – covered by veil, then badger skin, then blue cloth.

This caused me to ask more questions. Why are some things covered in blue, others by scarlet, and others in purple? Why are some things covered with badger skin on top and the ark isn’t? Is there a progression of change in color as one approaches the holy of holies? Are there any types of Christ present here? Is there a gradation of holiness represented by color or position or number of coverings?

After pondering these different things, it seems to me that there is sophisticated symbolism at work here, teaching things about the Messiah, His nature, and His mission.

First, let’s think about the colors. Blue, scarlet, and purple are used a lot in the robes of the high priest. Blue, with its easy association with the sky, makes us think of the divine and of holiness. Scarlet makes us think of blood, and therefore man in his mortal condition. Purple has several associations. It was a very expensive color at that time, so it was confined to those who had wealth, usually royalty. Also, the color happens to be a mix between blue and red, so it could be in itself a type of Christ, who had both divine and mortal parentage.

The purple cloth that covered the altar of sacrifice says something about the high price of that sacrifice, the fact that Jesus is king of Israel, and His divine-mortal nature.

Many of the things in the holy place were covered with a blue cloth, then with badger skin. The blue makes me think of divinity and badger skin of mortality as well.

The shewbread table, however, had a different kind of covering pattern. The table was first covered with blue cloth, then all the table utinsels and shewbread was placed on it, then covered by scarlet cloth, then badger skin. Why the scarlet?   I think the scarlet was in consideration of how the shewbread represented the twelve tribes of Israel, who were mortal, sinful, and who needed redemption. The shewbread was carried on the blue-covered table, which I think teaches something about how divine power and grace carries us.

The ark of the covenant was first covered with the veil (which separated the holy place from the holy of holies). This made the space under the veil a miniature holy of holies and ensured no unhallowed eyes would see it. Then badgerskin, as all the other things were, and then topped with blue out where all would see it! And the ark would be carried out front. This, I think, teaches first how Christ was a visible example to all of us. Also, I think that blue on the outside teaches that after He died, or passed through the veil, He rose from the dead and regained His glory and ascended into heaven.

That’s a lot of stuff to teach just with the preparations for getting rady to move the Tabernacle! It seems the Lord wanted the priests and Levites to ponder those things and know of His mission even in day-to-day tasks.

Saturday, October 6, 2018 0 comments

My reactions to the change in Sunday meeting time length

This has to be from the Lord, because it is not what I would have expected. In some ways, it is contrary to earthly wisdom. To anyone concerned about the quality of learning and teaching in the church, it would make sense to put more emphasis on church-centered activities or learning, not less. So, put more emphasis on home-centered teaching is counter-intuitive. It puts more weight on families to step up. This increases our personal responsibility to use our time in a way that increases our learning and worship. I’m looking forward to seeing how the curriculum and resource book helps with this.

It seems to me that this shows how much the Lord trusts us. He frees up valuable hours for us to use to strengthen our families and increase our gospel study and learning.

On a slightly different another topic…

I heard rumors about this meeting time length change through an article or two on the internet. I chose to ignore those rumors and not pass it on, even to family members. My reasoning was that if they were rumors, they were not worth listening to unless the news came straight from the prophet and apostles.

 Now that I find the rumors had some truth to them, does that mean that I decide to put faith in rumors? No. Rumors might still be false.  Even if rumors happen to be true, they don’t come with helpful context or reasoning about the purpose behind it all. They may come filtered through the view of doubtful perspectives that murmur over them, and that isn’t going to edify.

But when the news about change in the church comes from the prophet and apostles, they speak about the purposes and designs, about the historical context, about the spiritual needs that are being addressed, all designed so that we can accept it and move forward with those changes. While they have the authority to say “Thus saith the Lord” and withhold reasons, they still reason together with us so that we may understand. This allows both our minds and hearts to be touched.
Monday, October 1, 2018 0 comments

Isaiah prophesies peace among animal creation

6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.
9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)
These verses speak of a future when animal creation lives peacefully together. I note that Isaiah describes how predatory animals will not take advantage of the trust and closeness of plant-eating animals to harm or eat them.

It will be cool to see this happen literally, but I think it also describes a spiritual reality that will come among humans. There are predatory types among humanity too, and I think Isaiah is telling us there will come a time when the knowledge of God will spread to the extent that those people who are predisposed to prey upon others—we’d call them sociopaths—will restrain themselves to live by the Lord’s doctrines and will refrain from harming.  “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain.”
Friday, September 21, 2018 0 comments

Lehi sees the attitude of heaven

Nephi describes what his father Lehi saw in his vision of heaven:

And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God. (1 Nephi 1:8)

That phrase “in the attitude of singing and praising their God” has always interested me. It has an older sound to it, sort of like classic literature, as though it says, “in the pose of,” like a frozen tableau. But in modern parlance, we could also read this as saying the concourses of angels had a mental attitude of singing and praising God. I like that better.

What is our attitude? What is our outlook on life? Somehow, I think having an attitude of singing and praising our God will make life more beautiful, no matter what we face.

Let’s work on cultivating that attitude today.
Thursday, September 13, 2018 2 comments

What’s the point of Moroni 9?

Moroni 9 is such an unpleasant chapter, giving a peek from Mormon at the horrible things the Nephites were doing, that it is hard to see why Moroni chose to include it in the Book of Mormon. I have usually pointed to the horrible stuff as an index of how bad things can get, and yet I don’t know if that was Moroni’s intent for including it. Did he really mean it to be a bellwether of society’s depravity or decadence? 

            I think the key to its inclusion lies between the awful stuff.

            In between the reports of cannibalism, rape, torture, starvation, disorder, and disobedience, we see that Mormon is still hard at work.
--He’s preaching to the people, trying different approaches—sharpness or gentleness—and noting whether it works or not.
--He’s determined to keep trying to preach, for his own spiritual benefit, even if his listeners don’t accept it.
--He’s determined to conquer Satan in his own life, even if others are not.
--He maintains his faith in God’s justice and anticipates God will judge his people.
--He seems to have wanted to relieve those starving in Sherrizah, even if circumstance and his people were against him doing that.
--He prays for Moroni (actually this was in Moroni 8)
--He trusts in Christ that Moroni will be saved to either witness Nephite repentance or their complete destruction.
--He trusts he will be spared long enough to pass sacred records to Moroni.
--He is still engaged in the work of record-making and record-keeping.
--He exhorts his son to be faithful in Christ and remember the resurrection and Christ’s mercy and long-suffering forever.
--He anticipates the day when all things will be subject to Christ (even if few seem subject at that time)
--He recognizes that the things he’s written could weigh Moroni down, but he exhorts him to be lifted by Christ.

In all of this, we see a righteous man doing his best to use his good influence on those around him, anxiously engaged in good causes, attempting to show charity, expressing faith in Christ, expressing hope for a glorious future (though stuck in a dismal and decadent present), exhibiting long-suffering among the evil around him, keeping a perspective of justice in noting that his people are worse than the Lamanites, and so forth.

He’s a great example of a good person who maintains his integrity in awfully wicked conditions. This is probably what Moroni wanted us to see. His example shows us it is possible.

Personal News Item: I've been working like crazy on a commentary on the Book of Revelation, so that is my next big project to come down the pipe.  This will take some of the blog posts I've done and add to them. My thinking has evolved a lot, so not all the posts I've put up here will be included.  I'm very excited about the things I'm learning and can't wait to share them with you!
Tuesday, September 11, 2018 1 comments

Christ still gives glory to the Father

18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men. (D&C 19:18-19)

I think it is notable that Christ gives glory to the Father in the midst of telling how hard it was to bear the sins of the world. Look at that last dash in the text and think about all the things He could have said following it.

He could have forgotten to give that credit for His success and take all the credit for Himself, but He didn’t. This shows how serious He is about doing the will of the Father and giving the Father the glory. He was serious when He said, “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.”

It’s a nice reminder that I need to give the Father credit for my successes. After all, He gave me my life, He has supported me from day to day, lending my breath, letting me move and try things. Even allowing me to make mistakes (though I would prefer not to). All the intelligence I gain is from learning principles that He knew first and has shared with humanity. Any good I do is because I learned His commandments and felt inspired by the Spirit to do it. Any sins I’m forgiven of through repentance are because He put the Plan of Salvation in place so I could repent.

Saturday, September 8, 2018 2 comments

Elder Boyd K. Packer and a Story on Gospel Learning

I was reading Elder Packer’s book Teach Ye Diligently yesterday and I ran across a story that I felt has some important things to say.

“When I was a mission president, my assistants and I occasionally checked apartments. Missionaries sometimes have the tendency not to keep their apartments clean, and so every few months we would stop and make some inspections. (This procedure had an interesting side effect. Through the missionary “grapevine,” word would be passed on, and though we personally inspected only one or two apartments, all were cleaned up!)
In St. Johnsury, Vermont, I was surprised one morning at about ten o’clock to find that when we knocked at a door, expecting to make contact with the landlord, an elder answered. He and his companion should have been out tracting.
            I said, “Where’s your companion?”
            “He’s studying in the bedroom.”
            His companion was reading The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. I had read the book, so I commented on it to him, asking, “How will it help you in missionary work?”
            He replied something to the effect that the more you know, the better you can teach. I asked how many other books he had read. He was sitting on an old, high, four-poster New England bed. He reached down, took hold of the bedspread, and lifted it up so I could see several boxes of books under the bed. He had read them all.
            “Where did you get all these books?” I inquired. He indicated that he had a relative who was in the publishing business and that he automatically received all of the books that came off the press relating to the Church. After some conversation I instructed him to box up all the books and send them home. I also instructed him to write to his relative and tell him to send him no more books. For the rest of his mission he would need only the scriptures and one or two other books we prescribed.
            He vigorously protested, insisting that he was learning the gospel and that the more he read, the more he’d be able to teach. I tried to reason with him and finally, with some impatience, I said, “Elder, if you keep on this course, I’ll tell you what will happen to you. You will come to know about many things relating to the gospel and much of it will be useless to you. You will be the kind of individual who goes to a Sunday School class to disturb the class and irritate the teacher by demonstrating your ‘much knowledge.’
            “You will have more factual knowledge than most of the teachers you will meet in the Church. You will want to correct them in every class. If ever a mistake is made, whether it be by a Sunday School teacher, a bishop, a counselor, or a quorum officer, you will correct it. Many mistakes will be made, because in the Church we are all learning as we grow. You will not be called to positions because of your arrogant, know-it-all attitude will disqualify you. You will go through life wondering why you were passed over, blaming the Church and those in it, and eventually shriveling up spiritually.
            “Your problem is selfishness. You are more interested in what will happen to you on your mission than what you can do for others. You already know far more than you need to know to introduce investigators to the gospel and bring them to the point where conversion can take place. Remember, elder, this is not your mission. It is His mission. You will never gain the most important eternal things by the course you are following. You and your companion need to be out now knocking on doors, imparting the milk of the gospel. The meat can come later, and you can learn it later.”
            The elder recognized what he had been doing and sent the books home. There would be time for that kind of study later in life, and I assume that he is now somewhere in the Church possessing an ever-greater knowledge of the factual things concerning the Church and its doctrines, imparting in a gentle way the basic principles to lift many around him.” (p188-190)

I was very much struck by Elder Packer’s ability to predict what would happen to this missionary. The missionary wanted to learn in order to teach, so it would follow that the elder would use what he learned at every opportunity to correct errors. And of course there would be many errors.  But this missionary’s desire to teach wasn’t necessarily out of a desire to benefit others or he would have been out doing missionary work already. It was a desire to look knowledgeable in front of others, a desire to build himself up at others’ expense. That was the selfishness. And at that time, he couldn’t bear to teach and be rejected by investigators, since he knew he would be rejected often, so he was hiding from the prospect of rejection that reading and learning, while claiming it would make him a better teacher. He was afraid to trust the Spirit.

Something else also struck me about Elder Packer’s correction. In his prediction, he says to the missionary near the beginning, “Elder, if you keep on this course….You will come to know about many things relating to the gospel and much of it will be useless to you.”  Ouch.

If we enjoy reading about the gospel and learning much, this challenges us to think carefully about how it’s useful to us.  How does it inspire us to demonstrate greater faith in Christ?  How does it inspire us to change?  How does it help us become better?  

If our readings and learning doesn’t point us toward faith in Christ and personal change, it’s useless to us. And if the readings are pointing us in the right direction, if we don’t decide to do anything about what we’ve learned, we’re only reading for entertainment, not for growth.

Elder Packer also warned the elder, ”You will not be called to positions because your arrogant, know-it-all attitude will disqualify you.”  What’s the principle? Arrogance, know-it-all-ness, (and correcting everybody) is a disqualification for positions.    

I think this hit me particularly hard because I have been (and probably still am) guilty of that arrogance and know-it-all-ness. And I have been stupidly ambitious for position too. I’m less ambitious now than I was because I’ve now had one small leadership position, and I’ve learned how it is all about service and not self-aggrandizement.  But I still recognize some of that rotten ambition in myself. (Bleah)

Why does that stupid part of me think I need position?  It’s because some part of me feels like I need something to validate my importance and worth and thinks position will do that.  But it doesn’t and it won’t, no matter how big the position. 

So why do I think I need something to validate me?  Because somehow I haven’t quite internalized that I am a child of God yet. I know it in my head, but it hasn’t hit my soul.  Obviously, I need to work on remembering that. (Hmm, I think there was a conference talk on that in April…)

[insert struggling noises as I work to internalize my divine nature]

After thinking more about this, it seems to me that I, as a daughter of God, should be learning as much as I can about the gospel, but that I should also work to let it change me. A daughter of God looks for opportunities to serve wherever she is, and sees position as merely a different way to serve. A daughter of God shares knowledge and wisdom to inspire and encourage others. A daughter of God trusts the Holy Ghost to teach and convert. A daughter of God acknowledges what is right in other people’s viewpoints. A daughter of God recognizes others will know much she does not and tries to learn as much as she can from them.

Okay, I’m going to try to be like that.

I think I can learn a lot about what I should do by asking myself, “What would a daughter of God do?”  It goes right along with asking “What would Jesus do?”

Monday, August 27, 2018 0 comments

Part of Solomon’s prayer to dedicate the temple

38 What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house:
39 Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;)
40 That they may fear thee all the days that they live in the land which thou gavest unto our fathers. (1 Kings 8:39-40)

I was touched by these verses, particularly as it speaks of every man knowing the plague of his own heart. I suspect we all have issues that plague us, things in our own character or thought process that we know aren’t helping us, that are causing us to self-sabotage in some way, things that we can’t quite get the better of on our own. But we can turn to the Lord in the temple for help with them.

Solomon asks the Lord to hear, to forgive, and do, and give to each person according to his ways, or according to his needs so that they know it is the Lord’s hand in their lives. The different actions possible give us some insight on what we might ask the Lord for.

Forgive – we can ask for our sins to be pardoned

Do – we can ask for the Lord to intervene in our lives or the lives of others in a variety of ways

Give – we can ask the Lord for spiritual and temporal gifts, as long as we do not ask to consume it on our lusts

Saturday, August 25, 2018 0 comments

Cunning Plans of the Devil

And thus we see how great the inequality of man is because of sin and transgression, and the power of the devil, which comes by the cunning plans which he hath devised to ensnare the hearts of men. (Alma 28:13)
What are the cunning plans of the devil? Can we see them at work in our lies? Do we see the attempts to flatter or stir up to anger or other strong emotion? Do we notice the attempts to bind down with apathy or discouragement or hopelessness?

Ensnaring hearts makes me think of feelings that are easy to get into, but which are hard to get out of.

I decided I needed more insight on this, so I decided to look at “snare” in the Topical Guide.

The children of Israel were commanded, “if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee.” (Ex. 23:33) Since that service to the other gods involved ritual prostitution, that was definitely true. Getting into that sin would be hard to get out of.

Gideon, after his military success, made an ephod and all Israel went whoring after it, and it became a snare unto Gideon and to his house (see Judges 8:27). Material goods can be a snare when everybody loves it but us. If we want to get rid of it because it is having a bad influence and nobody will let us, or we don’t see what’s so great about it.

Saul gave his daughter Michal to David to wife, calculating that she would be a snare to him (see 1 Samuel 18:21) possibly because of her idolatry (see 1 Sam. 19:13). When spouses aren’t equally yoked, the less faithful one can pull down the more faithful one. The same can be said of friends as well.

David curses the wicked in Psalm 69:22, “Let their table become a snare before them; and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap.” How might a table be a snare? I think it means what is on the table, not the table itself. In his day, food might have been a snare if people began breaking the Law of Moses concerning clean and unclean foods. It would lead them into thinking they could break other laws as well.  A table can also be a snare to people who have a hard time knowing when to stop eating.

Our mouth can snare us. “A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.” (Proverbs 18:7) People are affected by their own words, and we can get stuck in patterns of speech that aren’t very kind or healthy. We can get stuck in patterns of criticism or gossip.

Proverbs 22:24-25 warns against making friends with an angry man lest we learn his ways and become ensnared in them. So anger becomes a snare too. I think we can see today how people can get pulled a habit of anger.

Proverbs 29:8 says scornful men bring a city into a snare, but wise men turn away wrath. Scorn causes people to do all kinds of things to avoid being derided, even if it is wrong. It can affect entire communities.

Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe.” Worrying about what others will think can become a pernicious trap that keeps us timid and powerless.

Jeremiah 50:24 warns Babylon that a snare is laid for them and they are trapped because they fight against the Lord. Rebellion becomes a snare.

In Luke 21:34-35, Jesus warns that in the last days drunkenness, excess, and cares of this life would become a snare to the world before the second coming. So pleasures can be a snare as well. (It would certainly be a cunning plan of the devil to make fun into a snare that traps people.)

1 Timothy 6:9 says that they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare. So greed and avarice can be an instrument of entrapment by the devil. The law of sacrifice is one of the Lord’s methods for getting His people loose from that kind of trap.

Alma the elder told the people in Mosiah 23:9 that he was caught in a snare with the iniquity of King Noah and the priests. He got loose by accepting the truth Abinadi taught, by standing up for Abinadi (which caused a break between Alma and the others), and by repenting.

Is there anything that is spiritually trapping you these days? Humility and repentance is the key to get out.
Saturday, August 11, 2018 0 comments

How Jesus handles a question about His authority

27 And they come again to Jerusalem: and as he was walking in the temple, there come to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders,
28 And say unto him, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority to do these things?
29 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things.
30 The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me.
31 And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him?
32 But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed.
33 And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things. (Mark 11:27-33)

Many commentators like to go into great depth about the trap laid for Jesus in their question. They also usually point to Jesus’s counter-question as a brilliant defense by which He puts them all in their place.

Yet something about it struck me as odd. I began to wonder what we are supposed to learn from this incident that can help us. Are we to learn that Jesus can unequivocally win arguments and devastate the opposition? Is winning the argument His goal?  Does this help us in our conversations about the gospel? 

It seems to me that when faced with a question about His authority, Jesus’s major goal would be persuading someone to recognize His power to redeem. The question in His mind would be, If I tell you, will you acknowledge my authority and allow me to save you? He might want to know if they were asking sincerely or out of bad faith. Because He wants to save everyone, He has to assume sincerity until they prove bad faith. 

He asks a question to learn from them. I see this incident as instance in which Christ demonstrated His meekness and lowliness of heart. He didn’t ask, “Why do you want to know?” He asked whether they thought John’s baptism was from heaven or of men. His question is meant to discern their level of sincerity and belief. He knew their ability to respond positively to a prophet in their day would determine their ability to respond to the Messiah. 

It is interesting that the reasoning of the chief priests, scribes, and elders was captured in the record in verses 31-32. (As an exercise, just try reading the account without that reasoning inserted, and you’ll see how it might have looked to everyone else who wasn’t privy to the motivation coloring the answer of those leaders.)

Their reasoning indicates that they thought His question was a trap. This was pure projection on their part. They thought Jesus was doing to them what they were trying to do to Him. If they had been sincere, they might have seen His question for what it really was. And I hardly think they’d want such a blatantly self-interested politically-obsessed thought process to get about, but someone overheard, and now it is memorialized for all time. 

Since they claimed they couldn’t tell whether John’s baptism was from heaven or men, Jesus knew then that they’d be similarly obtuse in public about Jesus’s authority. He probably said to Himself, I can’t do anything with people who ‘can’t tell,’ when it’s so obvious, so I guess I can’t tell them anything about my authority either because they won’t get it. And He wouldn’t push His authority on them; He wouldn’t want to condemn them so quickly. He’d want to give them more time in hopes that He could save them later.

One thing I learn from this incident is that Jesus chooses whether to answer a question based upon the receptiveness of the hearer. Even though those leaders thought they were saving face by refusing to commit, they actually disqualified themselves from receiving a real answer. Seeming wishy-washy or obtuse marked them as having spiritual problems, even if they concealed for a time that their problem was outright hostility. It is particularly sad that these were chief priests, scribes, and elders, men who should have been most spiritually mature and receptive.

Jesus’s test question is still a good one for today. How we respond to a modern prophet determines how receptive we’d be to Jesus Himself. If we ‘can’t tell’ if a modern prophet is from God, when his goodness has been demonstrated over years, then our ability to receive revelation is diminished. On the positive side, if we respond to the modern prophet and apostles, we will be receptive to revelation and receptive to Jesus Himself.

I also think that Jesus’s willingness to take time and ask questions of the questioner to gauge where they were at is a good pattern to follow in gospel conversations. If people ask us questions about the church or the gospel, maybe it would be wise to first take time to ask them questions about what experiences have brought them to us or what they believe so that we can better meet them where they are spiritually.