Wednesday, November 13, 2019 0 comments

Preliminaries for Confirming or Ordaining

And [Jesus] called them by name, saying: Ye shall call on the Father in my name, in mighty prayer; and after ye have done this ye shall have power that to him upon whom ye shall lay your hands, ye shall give the Holy Ghost; and in my name shall ye give it, for thus do mine apostles. (Moroni 2:2)

2 After they had prayed unto the Father in the name of Christ, they laid their hands upon them, and said:
3 In the name of Jesus Christ I ordain you to be a priest (or if he be a teacher, I ordain you to be a teacher) to preach repentance and remission of sins through Jesus Christ, by the endurance of faith on his name to the end. Amen. (Moroni 3:2-3)

I notice these both say that priesthood holders were to prepare for exercising the priesthood of God by praying first. We see that Jesus instructed His disciples to do this, advising “mighty prayer,” promising that then they would have power.

What is the principle behind Jesus’s commandments to pray mightily first? I think it is this: A man must prepare spiritually and put himself in harmony with the Lord in order to speak for the Lord to one of God’s children. Obedience and submission through prayer is the first step, and praying as commanded does that. Secondly, putting oneself in communication with the Father is necessary before one can have confidence to speak for Him, and prayer is the way that we align our will with His.

Do priesthood holders do this today? I haven’t seen it, but then it may go on in the heart, which I can’t see. But I am sure that if those scriptural practices are followed, greater blessings will result while the priesthood is being used.

Thursday, November 7, 2019 0 comments

The Fountain of All Righteousness

Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness. (Ether 12:28)

This verse struck me as profound for some reason today, but I’m not sure I can quite articulate why. (But I’ll try.) The idea that faith, hope, and charity brings or leads us eventually to Christ is wonderful. It means you just have to follow the threads of faith, hope, and charity that you find in your life and among the people you meet, and you’ll eventually find Christ and His true church.

Also, I love the Christ calls Himself “the fountain of all righteousness.” It’s a beautiful image—a fountain perpetually springing up with good works, a fountain that never runs dry, a fountain that is the source of ALL righteousness in the world. If a person find a stream of righteousness anywhere, they can follow it back, and it would eventually lead them to Christ.

If suppose if we want to be like Him, then we must similarly become fountains of righteousness as well. Today, let’s try to be a fountain of faith, hope, and charity.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019 1 comments

Stirred up emotions

The Book of Mormon has many instances of using the phrase “stirred up” to describe the process of raising up emotions in order to push individuals or crowds to action. It’s useful to look at these instances to see what we can learn.

Probably most notable of instances of stirring and stirring up is when people are stirred up to anger. 

Some larger principles about stirring to anger
Jesus declares that stirring people up to anger is no part of His doctrine, but declares such things should be done away. (3 Nephi 11:30)
Nephi says those who are part of the devil’s kingdom must be stirred up to repentance, or the devil will stir them up to anger and they’ll perish. (2 Ne. 28:19)
Mormon declares the wicked stir people up to bloodshed. (Mormon 4:5)

Nephi prophesies of how Satan will stir people up to anger against that which is good. (2 Ne. 28:20) We can find many instance of this in the Book of Mormon.

Stirred against good
Laman stirred up Lemuel with suspicions that Nephi lied to them about spiritual experiences in order to usurp power over them. (1 Ne. 16:38)
The priests of Noah stir up the king to anger against Abinadi with charges that Abinadi reviled the king, and King Noah orders Abinadi be slain. (Mosiah 17:12)
King Noah accuses Alma of stirring the people to rebellion as a pretext of sending his army against him and his people. (Mosiah 18:33)
The charity of the Anti-Nephi-Lehites for the poor Zoramites who were cast out stirs up the anger of the elite Zoramites. They mix with the Lamanites and stir them up to anger against the Anti-Nephi-Lehites as well. (Alma 35:10)
The Nephite chief judges stir up the people to anger against the prophet Nephi when he calls them to repentance. (Helaman 8:7)
Satan stirs up the Nephites to do iniquity continually, spreading rumors and contentions everywhere to harden people’s hearts against goodness and prophecy. (Helaman 16:22)

Instances of Kings/authority figures stirring up the people to anger
King Laman stirs his people up to contend with Zeniff’s people (Mosiah 9:13)
King Laman’s son (now king) begins to stir up his people against Zeniff’s people (Mosiah 10:6)
King Noah accuses Alma of stirring the people to rebellion as a pretext of sending his army against him and his people. (Mosiah 18:33)
Amlici stirs up his followers to anger against those who opposed his bid for kingship. (Alma 2:8)
Amalickiah stirs up the Lamanites to anger against the Nephites. (Alma 47:1, Alma 48:3, Alma 51:9) [Captain Moroni knew this would happen far ahead of time. (Alma 46:30)]
Tubaloth (king of the Lamanites) stirs up his people to anger against the Nephites, and they go to battle the Nephites. (Helaman 1:17)
The Nephite chief judges stir up the people to anger against the prophet Nephi when he calls them to repentance. (Helaman 8:7)
Zarahemnah intends to stir up the Lamanites to anger against the Nephites to usurp power over them and use them to bring the Nephites to bondage. (Alma 43:8)
After Zarahemna loses his scalp, he stirs up the rest of his soldiers to fight more powerfully. (Alma 44:16)

People stirring up people to anger
The Lamanites are stirred up to anger against the Limhi’s Nephites, and they start coming into the land to harass them. (Mosiah 21:2) (Cause is unstated, but it can’t be an authority figure, otherwise battle would have resulted.)
The Amalekites and Amulonites stir up the Lamanites against the Anti-Nephi-Lehites. (previous to their attack on Ammonihah) (Alma 24:1)
The Amalekites stir up the Lamanites against the Anti-Nephi-Lehites because they can’t get revenge on the Nephites. (Alma 27:2)
The peoples of Coriantumr and Shiz are stirred up to anger against each other and go to battle. (Ether 15:6)
Dissenters from the Nephites stir the Lamanites to anger against the Nephites (Alma 63:14, Helaman 11:24)
Nephite dissenters try to stir up the Lamanites to anger against the Nephites and don’t succeed. (Helaman 4:3) The next year, they do succeed. (Helaman 4:4)

People stirring up leaders
The priests of Noah stir up the king to anger against Abinadi with charges that Abinadi reviled the king, and King Noah orders Abinadi be slain. (Mosiah 17:12)

Seeing others sorrow & pain stirs to anger
The cries of the widows and orphans stir up the people of Limhi against their Lamanite taskmasters and they go to battle and lose. (Mosiah 21:11)
Amulonites martyring new Lamanite believers stirs up other Lamanites to anger against the Amulonites. (Alma 25:8)

Motives of gain stirring to iniquity
The lawyers of Ammonihah stir up the people to riotings, disturbances, and wickedness in order to have more work and to get gain. (Alma 11:20)
Satan stirs up the Nephites to unite with the bands of robbers and enter secret combinations. (Helaman 6:21)
Satan stirs up the people to do iniquity, puffs them with pride, and tempts them to seek for power, authority, riches, and worldly things. (3 Nephi 6:15)

Can there be good emotional stirrings?  There are some instances in the Book of Mormon of this too.

War meant to stir people to remember God
The Lord tells Nephi that the Lamanites will scourge the Nephites, as a means to stir the Nephites up to remember God. (1 Nephi 2:24)
Elsewhere, the Lord tells Nephi that if the Nephites don’t get stirred up to repentance by the Lamanite scourge, they will be destroyed. (2 Ne. 5:25)
Battle losses stir up the Lamanites to remember the words of Aaron and his brethren and they begin to disbelieve their Lamanite traditions. (Alma 25:6
The depredations of the Gadianton robbers stir up the Nephites to remember the Lord. (Helaman 11:34)

Afflictions and famine can stir to remembrance of God
King Benjamin tells Mosiah of how their fathers were smitten with afflictions to stir them up to remember their duty. (Mosiah 1:17)
The prophet Nephi prays that a famine will be used to stir up the Nephites to repentance. (Helaman 11:4)

Preaching meant to stir us to remember God
Enos tells that the prophets had to stir up the Nephites continually with preaching of war, contention, destruction, reminding them of death, judgment, and the duration of eternity, to fear the Lord. (Enos 1:23)
Jarom tells of the prophets stirring the people up to repentance by pricking their hearts with the word. (Jarom 1:12)
King Benjamin appointed priests to teach the people and stir them up to remember the oath they had made to serve God (Mosiah 6:3)
Alma goes to preach among the people to stir them up to remember their duty. (Alma 4:19)
Captain Moroni says Pahoran should have stirred himself more diligently for the welfare and freedom of the people. (Alma 60:10) He threatens Pahoran that if he doesn’t get reinforcement, he will stir up any remaining spark of freedom into insurrection and fight against those who usurp power and authority. (Alma 60:27)

All of this is particular important to know these days because of the prevalence of incivility and anger out in the world today and attempts to manipulate with stirring strong negative emotions. Not only do we need to work to keep from being affected by it, but we will face the temptation to use it ourselves.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019 0 comments

Some thoughts on Lazarus’ rising from the dead and awkwardness in the sacred

43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. (John 11:43-44)

We often envision this scene with Lazarus walking out of the grave doorway, but the reality was probably a lot weirder.

The text says Lazarus was bound hand and foot, which probably means his feet were wrapped tight together and his hands were wrapped tight to his body. Also his face was covered up. It’s really hard to move under those conditions. (How would you have done it if you were wrapped up tight like a mummy?)

How did he get out? Lazarus probably had to roll and inch around to exit the cave where he’d been put. It probably looked really strange, like an enormous cloth-covered inch worm thrashing around. (It may have even looked a little frightening too.) Jesus had to tell people to loose Lazarus so he could move better.

When we read this story, it reads like a dramatic and spiritual event, but it may have looked strange or silly, or weird, or scary for a small period to those who saw it.

I think this is probably true more often than we realize. We may experience miracles that seem strange, silly, weird, or even scary when we’re going through them, but which sound a lot better in the telling. 

We’re used to slick, carefully-edited media, with nothing incongruous or out of place. We’re used to church videos that deliberately infuse the sacred into the smallest gestures to achieve a polished, shiny view of holiness. And yet, we love amateur videos that show the touch of “awkward” because they are so human and genuine. There’s love and truth there.

Maybe we need to remember that in real life, there is awkward in the sacred, and the sacred in the awkward.  Let’s learn to find gratitude for that in our lives. It can heal tendencies toward perfectionism.
Friday, October 11, 2019 0 comments

Some things I've learned from the Book of Revelation

I'm still working on my book about the Book of Revelation. I finished a draft about two weeks ago (yay!), and yesterday I got feedback about my Introduction in which I try to explain why that book is so important to understand. This test reader found my explanation needed some work. (Doh!)

So of course I went to work trying to improve it.  Eventually I realized I had a tangle of half-articulated reasons.  Which means I had to un-tangle and fully articulate.

 But it just wouldn't come. There was just so many ways that I realized the Book of Revelation can help us.  And as I worked away at it, adding here, moving there, over and over... I discovered a lot of the reasons interlocked with each other and led to more reasons. That made it really hard to tell how to organize my paragraphs.

So I gave up on the writing part for a while and decided to mind-map it out.  I hoped that I could at least begin to see the relationships better than I did before.

Here's what I have so far.  Hopefully you can click on this thing and read my tiny print. :-)

Naturally, not every single bubble will find its way into the particular section I'm working on. But at least I'll be able to see relationships better.

Thursday, October 10, 2019 3 comments

A Story about Taking Something Away

I was reading in Alma 55 recently about the story of the Lamanite guards of the city of Gid who are lulled to sleep with wine provided by Nephite-aligned Lamanites. There was a verse in the story near the beginning that suddenly stuck out to me.  Laman has told the guards about the wine he’s stolen from the Nephites in his daring escape, and the guards get excited to try some.

But Laman said unto them: Let us keep of our wine till we go against the Nephites to battle. But this saying only made them more desirous to drink of the wine; (Alma 55:10)

Since we know what happened in this story, it is pretty obvious to us that the wisest thing for the Lamanite guards to do would be wait.  But for some reason, the guards don’t want to be prudent; they want to indulge themselves. They want it now, not later. This made me think that learning to self-impose deferred gratification is an important skill.

But then I thought about what Laman had done in the story. He showed them the wine, and then he essentially attempts to pull it away. If we have troubles imagining the effect this has, we can substitute cookies or ice cream instead….   Laman showed them the tasty-looking cookies, and then he pulled them away and said, “Let’s keep it until just before battle.”   The Lamanite guards have seen the cookies, they’ve smelled the cookies, they now have cookies on the brain. What Laman has done here is essentially to target-lock the guards’ brains on the cookies. They want the cookies NOW!  If the cookies are taken away, they’re going to get resentful and mad.

Not only has Laman put wine on the guards’ brain, he has gotten them laser-focused on the very thing that will be their undoing. (We know the wine is extra powerful stuff.) As a result of getting drunk, they lose all the prisoners they were supposed to guard, and they lose their own freedom.

So we can see two different spiritual life lessons about strategy here when we look at things from the Lamanite guards’ perspective.

Lesson #1: Train your ability to defer gratification.

Lesson #2: Look out for when something is offered and then pulled away. Realize that this will cause you to fixate on the thing being pulled away. (Try not to do this to others too.) It will take extra work to think about whether it is a good thing to want in the first place.
Wednesday, September 18, 2019 0 comments

Paul’s words about judging church leaders

1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.
2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.
4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.
5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.
6 And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.
7 For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? (1 Cor. 4:1-7)

I get the sense that Paul was asking the Corinthian saints to consider him (and other church leaders) servants of God. There’s a certain amount of respect that goes with that kind of office. But faithfulness is certainly required, otherwise stewards can be removed from their place.

But he also points out that it isn’t wise to “think of men above that which is written,” by which I think he means idolizing or idealizing.  Paul would be disturbed if infallibility were attributed to church leaders.   (This reminds me of an old joke that Catholics say the pope is infallible, but none of them believe it, while Latter-day Saints say the prophet is fallible, but none of them believe that either.)  

And some leaders look pious, but aren’t really, which is why Paul warns that God would bring to light the hidden things of darkness and make manifest the counsels of the hearts.

It is interesting that Paul says “I judge not mine own self.” It hints that although he had examined his own conscience and felt like he had repented of everything he should, he recognized he might have blind spots about his own spiritual status that would prevent him from making an accurate judgment, and he left that to God.  If Paul can say that, then I suppose those of us who do the best we can are allowed to say it too. 

Finally, I really like verse 7, particularly the question “What hast thou that thou didst not receive?” None of us, no matter how wise or spiritual, can honestly say that we know anything about the gospel without having been taught it through the Spirit. Everything we know, we’ve received from God, so we have nothing to boast of.
Saturday, September 14, 2019 1 comments

Binding and Loosing, Differences in Translation

I was looking at Matt 18:18 about the sealing power Christ promised to His disciples.  It seems like there are two different ways this scripture has been translated. They have great implications for doctrine.

Reading #1

King James Bible
Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

New International Version
"Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

New Living Translation
"I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.   [My thought: Forbidden?  Permitted? What? Authority to make new commandments?]

GOD'S WORD® Translation
I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you imprison, God will imprison. And whatever you set free, God will set free.

New American Standard 1977
“Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Reading #2

Berean Literal Bible
Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on the earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
I assure you: Whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.

NET Bible
"I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
And truly I say to you, everything whatsoever you will bind in the earth will have been bound in Heaven, and anything that you will release in the earth will have been released in Heaven.

King James 2000 Bible
Verily I say unto you, whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be what has been bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be what has been loosed in heaven.

World English Bible
Most certainly I tell you, whatever things you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever things you release on earth will have been released in heaven.

International Standard Version
"I tell all of you with certainty, whatever you prohibit on earth will have been prohibited in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will have been permitted in heaven.                   [Prohibit? Permitted?  Already?]

Note that half of these translations say that people on earth are binding what has already been bound in heaven.  If this were the case, then all a priesthood holder would need would be simply revelation to know what was bound or loosed and then communicate it.

But the interpretation that we believe in is the one in which the priesthood holder declares the binding or loosing, and the heavens ratify the action and honor it.  This power is much greater, and also requires great holiness, doing what the heavens and God would do anyway if they were here.

We read this as referring not only to church discipline, but also to the joining of a man and woman in matrimony for eternity and for the sealing of their children to them. When the sealing power was given to Joseph Smith, the meaning and significance of binding and loosing expanded. It no longer can be seen as only having to do with a person’s individual relationship with God, but also as a medium of creating and cementing eternal family bonds and ultimately a more ordered and stable society, not just here, but beyond the grave.
Wednesday, September 11, 2019 0 comments

Paul’s Emotions in 2 Corinthians 2

1 But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness.
2 For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me?
3 And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all.
4 For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.
5 But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all. (2 Cor. 2:1-5)
These verses gave me problems understanding what was going on, so I want to discuss it a bit.

The impression I got as I was looking at it as a whole was there was lots of emotion going on, but that it was very complex.  (And of course translation doesn’t make it any easier.)

Breaking it down verse-by-verse:

V1 – Paul doesn’t want to visit the Corinthians while he’s depressed and sad. He doesn’t want to inflict that emotion on them.
V2 – He points out that the same person who he made sorry can also make him glad (by repenting)  He’s pointing out there can be mutual emotional effects between people, and they can go in good directions as well as bad.
V3 – Paul wrote to the Corinthians instead of coming personally so that he wouldn’t be negatively affected or made sad by the spiritual difficulties among the Corinthians. He wanted to rejoice with them all because of them all.
V4 – Paul felt very strong emotions of affliction and anguish as he was writing (probably a previous letter), but he didn’t want them to know that in order to make them sad, but to let them know how much he loved them. (He’s being open about his emotions, but he’s also trying to make sure that he’s not being emotionally manipulative. Some people express their emotions to guilt people into doing what they want, and Paul knew he didn’t want to do that.)
V5 – Paul expresses that the grief he’d felt had only partially been caused by the particular Corinthian church member who had done wrong. (Paul takes responsibility for his emotions here.)

Really, when you think about it, this is quite extraordinary stuff. Here you have an apostle talking about his emotions and about five different emotional interplays going on. It’s VERY complex.  

We can see that he is aware of his emotions. We see that he has VERY STRONG emotions—affliction, anguish, tears. He’s also very open about them.  But at the same time, he’s also aware of the effect his emotions can have on others, and so he works hard to make sure that his expression of his emotions doesn’t create spiritual problems for the people he’s ministering to.  He doesn’t want to emotionally manipulate them. 

I’m going to sound a little female-centric sexist here, but how often do we see a man do something like this?  Men usually avoid being emotional.  That’s why this is pretty neat to see what Paul does here.

I think we can draw a number of principles about emotional health here.
1)    Recognize when you’re having emotions
2)    Name your emotions
3)    Take responsibility for your emotions—people may do things that provoke emotion in you, but you get to choose what to do with your emotions. You choose whether to say something or not, whether to do something or not. You get to choose your words and the way you say them.  You get to choose your actions and the way you do them.
4)    Express your emotions, but in a way that doesn’t harm others or yourself.

Emotions are powerful, and I think Paul demonstrates that. He also demonstrates that they have to be carefully managed to maintain good relationships.
Sunday, September 8, 2019 0 comments

Interesting Context and additional lessons clustered around “That hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man”

1 Cor. 10:13 is that famous scripture, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

This time when reading through, I thought it would be interesting to look at the context around the scripture and see how Paul gets to that fabulous pronouncement.

1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;
2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat;
4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.
7 Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.
9 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.
10 Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.
11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Cor. 10:1-13)

I noticed that Paul uses the story of the children of Israel in the wilderness with Moses and points out a number of lessons based on the story of the Israelites’ blessings and temptations.  They were all blessed the same way, but a number of them were overthrown in the wilderness because various temptations were too much for them.

I thought to highlight the kinds of challenges that Paul lists.
  • Listing after evil things
  • Idolatry/idleness
  • Committing fornication
  • Tempting Christ
  • Murmuring
I thought about those challenges and temptations and I realized that in the past I had made an incorrect assumption about the Israelites. I had assumed that ALL OF THEM were affected by ALL of those temptations.  I’d always thought they were ALL lacking in any kind of spiritual strength whatsoever and that as soon as they had been taught a lesson in one area they immediately backslid in another and had to have the lesson all over again.

I realized instead that it was different segments of the Israelites that had these different troubles. Some had troubles with lusting after evil things, others had troubles with idolatry, others had troubles with fornication and yet another segment had troubles with tempting Christ and others had troubles with murmuring. 

Once I realized that, it made perfect sense that Paul would write, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”   Because if one type of temptation isn’t getting to you, you might be in danger of falling to the next one.

This particular principle is very powerful and we can still see it playing out today in the church. Anytime the prophet makes a statement on something and some segment of the church balks, you can’t get cocky and scornful of them because the very next announcement might give you problems.  Just as an example, some people have troubles with President Nelson’s instructions to use the full name of the church and not call ourselves “Mormons.”  I hear some people retorting, “Just get with the program and follow the prophet!”  More recently, the clarifications on the Word of Wisdom have created some problems for people, and then another more recent change in the Handbook about handguns being prohibited in church have caused another segment of members to rebel.

You see?  It still happens today.

But the fact that it was a segment of the Israelite population that had troubles with those various temptations shows that the temptation are indeed common to man.  Thus, when we discover we’ve gotten hit, we don’t have to feel like we’re alone.  And God can help us resist and escape the temptation if we will pray for help.  (It takes a lot of maturity to realize you can pray for help to resist.)

Paul also points out that the experiences the Israelites went through were written so that everyone could know the specific kinds of behaviors that displease the Lord so that we don’t fall into them ourselves—or if we discover we’re falling into them, we can realize it and repent quickly.

As you can see, Paul actually extracts about three lessons from those stories, which is pretty awesome. We just gravitate the most strongly to verse 13 about how every temptation is a common one and God can help us escape them.

Thursday, September 5, 2019 0 comments

Building on the foundation of Christ

10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. ( 1 Cor. 3:10-15)

This section stuck out to me recently when I was reading. This comes in a context in which Paul was telling the Corinthians that they shouldn’t file off into parties (“I’m of Apollos!” “I’m of Cephas!” “I’m of Paul!”)  based on the people who initially taught them the gospel because the message of Christ should have been the commonality.

Here, he focuses on what should happen after that foundation of Christ has been laid. Once the foundation is laid, you don’t just stop there; you add more to that. You have to anchor to that foundation, but you keep building and keep learning additional stuff and teachers teach additional doctrine.

I think Paul was making the point that whatever else is taught that builds on the foundation of Christ needs to be good and valuable and lasting so that when the trials come (as they always do) we can endure through it.   

Paul suggests different building materials people might use in their building—gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble—and compares that to various types of doctrines that could be taught, then says the fire will try every man’s work. 

We can eyeball each of those materials Paul lists and have an idea of how they would stand up to fire. Gold and silver will still remain, although, depending on how hot the fire gets, they may melt. Precious stones will melt at a very high temperature and pressure, but I don’t know if Paul knew that. Perhaps he considered them most enduring. They certainly wouldn’t be completely burned; they’d just change to a different sort of form that would handle it better.   Now, wood, hay, and stubble would most obviously go up in flames immediately, so they wouldn’t be the best building material to build with if one expects to go through fire.  I suspect Paul meant for gold, silver, and precious stones to represent doctrines that are valuable and lasting.

This is a pretty good analogy for the importance of teaching good, solid doctrine because that will get through the fire and result in a reward instead of loss.   A modern-day way of teaching the same principle is that we want to teach nourishing doctrines of milk and meat, rather than
what is sometimes called “doctrinal twinkies” or “fried froth,” because when a famine of the Word hits the world, the twinkies and fried froth are going to leave us feeling malnourished and empty.

Sooner or later, the principles we’ve learned or taught will be tested by temptation or tribulation or persecution, so if we have to have that foundation of Christ and then solid, edifying doctrines to stand up to it. Otherwise things collapse, and it is really hard to rebuild in the middle of a storm or fire.    I’ve heard stories of people who have had to rebuild their faith in the middle of a tribulation, and my heart goes out to them. It’s possible, but it is very hard.

Sunday, September 1, 2019 0 comments

God will destroy the wisdom of the wise

18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
29 That no flesh should glory in his presence. (1 Cor. 1:18-29)
Paul recognized that preaching salvation through Christ and the testimony thereof did not fit with the convincing methods of rhetoric and logic of the Greeks in his day. The Greeks required something logical, and the Jews required a convincing miracle (a sign).  All Paul could do was testify and allow the Spirit to work on his hearers.    Naturally, those looking for logic or miracles would not accept that, but those who could recognize the witness of the Spirit and accept it, would be saved.

I love that Paul calls this “the foolishness of God” and “the weakness of God” that is “stronger than men.”  With the Spirit, even the most unlearned could preach the gospel. Which makes it possible for the Lord to use far more people than just the learned. World history has far more ignoramuses than learned people.

Further, Paul points out that not very many wise, learned, mighty, or noble had accepted the gospel. They depended too much on the wisdom of the world, and on their own capabilities to be able to accept the whisperings of the still, small voice. The wise, learned, mighty noble too often have their appearance and reputation to keep up, and they’d have to leave that all behind.  Paul knows what he’s talking about here, since he had been of the most zealous sect of Pharisees before his converting vision. He had to leave that all behind too, and no doubt he noticed how hard it was when he likely tried to get his friends to accept it too.

I love that Paul says, “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.” Doesn’t that give you hope? It does me. It tells me God could work through me or you.  The poster child for foolish things confounding the wise is the story of Joseph Smith, a poor, ignorant, young farm boy who was given a vision of God and Jesus Christ and was given a mission to translate the golden plates.  He had none of the advantages of learning or wealth or connections that one would expect someone called by God would need to have to complete such a mission, and yet he did it with God’s help.

Why does God do this sort of thing?  “That no flesh should glory in his presence.”  It shows us God can do His own work and use even the most ignorant and disadvantaged of us to do the most startling things.
Monday, August 26, 2019 0 comments

Paul’s Prayers for the Romans

9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;
10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.
11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;
12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. (Romans 1:9-13)

These verses hit me as I was starting to read through Romans a few weeks ago. It seems Paul had prayed long and hard that he’d be able to visit the Roman Saints to use his spiritual gifts for them. It is interesting to realize that this prayer was indeed answered, though it took years and Paul had to endure years of imprisonment and dangerous journeys to do it. The last two verses of Acts record that after having reached Rome, Paul lived there for two years, preaching and teaching the gospel.

The Lord answers prayers, sometimes taking years, but He answers them. It’s a serious thing to realize that determined, diligent prayers will be answered. One has to think carefully about what would be most important to prayer for.      What will we pray for without ceasing?