Monday, October 27, 2014

Sukkot: The Feast of Tabernacles

According to the Old Testament, the House of Israel was supposed to observe 3 annual feasts: Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Weeks), and Sukkot (Tabernacles).  Each Feast was an occasion for Israel to renew their devotion to God.  Also, each of the Feasts looks back as a reminder of God's deliverance as well as looks forward as a type and shadow of glorious future events.

Passover commemorated the passing over of the angel of death which look the life of all the firstborn in Egypt.  Passover as a type, prefigured the atonement, crucifixion and death of the holy Messiah.  Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Law to Moses after being delivered from bondage.  Also, Shavuot or Pentecost prefigured the giving of the Gift of the Holy Ghost following Christ's assention.  Finally, Sukkot commemorates Israel dwelling in tents after leaving Egypt.  Also, Sukkot is a type and shaddow of a great gathering of the righteous at Adam-ondi-ahman in the Last Days before the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Sukkot has great symbolism associated with it.  The Feast of Tabernacles or Ingathering is celebrated right after the fall harvest each year. I'm sure it would be easy for anyone to feel very wealthy at harvest time.  However, it is just at this precise time when God calls for His people to leave their homes and joyfully dwell in tents or booths with their families for 8 days.  This commandment serves to remind us that happiness does not come from our material possessions but from our families and our relationship with God.

Israel was also to pay their tithes and offereings during this time.  Israel was specifically instructed to remember the  fatherless the the widow.  Concern for the poor and the stranger were major parts of all the feast observances.

In addition to being commanded to be a "happy camper", Israel was commanded to decorate using citrus fruit, and branches from the willow, myrtle, and palm trees.  The arrangement of the "4 kinds (species), is a reminder of the importance of unity. While we all should aspire to have the pleasant fragrance (faith), and sweet taste (works) of the citrus fruit, every person is important to God.

Today, God's people participate in a weekly Lord's Supper and pay tithes and offerings on a monthly basis instead of just 3 times a year. But just in case you may think we are off the hook from observing the Lord's Feast's, Zechariah prophesies that in the Last Days after Armageddon, all nations who attacked Israel will be required to observe Sukkot.

And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. (Old Testament, Zechariah, Zechariah 14:16)

The LDS Temple Garment


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The Path of Christian Discipleship

I was having a gospel conversation with a colleague  at work and we got talking about grace and repentance.  My colleague is a devoute Christian that has dedicated a major part of his life to international medicine. I greatly admire his pure Christian devotion.  Unselfish service to others is a halmark of true Christian discipleship according to James 1:27 "to visit the fatherless and the widow."  On this we agree.  

However, the focus of our conversation shifted focus to the second part of James' summation of pure religion, "to keep ourselves unspotted from the world".  As we got talking about international medicine, we started talking about the problems and solutions to poverty. The world has always taught that education is the great solution.  If we can just educate everyone, then poverty will go away. 

Robert Welch of the John Birch Society also made education his focus to combat the progressive/liberal/socialist movement sweeping the US and the World.  However, Mr. Welch couldn't have been more wrong.  See, a major focus of the progressive/liberal movement in the US has been steadily and slowly demoralizing the US, Europe, and the World (Fabian Strategy = cook a frog). 

Sexual immorality and chemical abuse creates poverty through illigitamacy, divorce, broken homes, and drug dependance.  The poor in socialist nations then turn to the government for welfare assistance which will print the checks but never address the virtue issues at the root cause of poverty.  Thus government welfare creates a dependent voting block that cannot easily be be educated (Mitt Romney's 47%). This demoralized and dependent voting block are then used to slowly vote away our freedoms and rights.  Instead of punishing the harm doer only, the progresive government chooses to punish all of society by instituting greater controls and limiting freedoms in the name of prevention. 

An addicted, demoralized person cannot think straight because they think more selfishly then selflessly. Consequently, you cannot easily educate a demoralized person on self-governing principles at the heart of constitutional government.  A demonalized person will ofttimes require a strong government to restrain their behavior. Therefore, a person must first become moral before they can be correctly educated.

A demoralized person can look at the same data and draw their own conclusions. Those conclusions such as "my cannabis abuse doesn't hurt anyone but me", or "cannabis is not addictive", or "legalizing cannabis will save the government money," or "abusing myself with recreational cannabis makes me healthier, happier, more intelligent, and creative", usually revolves around whatever excuses their own immoral or selfish behavior.  Accordingly only a return to virtue can end poverty and rescue the US Constitution which is the foundation for all Constitutional government on Earth.

This is why welfare according to James 1:27 is to be the business of the Church and not government.  Yes we should believe in a separation of Church and State.  The State needs to get out of the welfare business of religion. Only the Church can effectively remedy poverty because it is the only institution that can effectly address virtue and morality.  The jurisdiction of the State covers harm upon another person. Only the Church can discipline and rehabilitate by denying sacraments and disfellowship for harming yourself before your actions begin harming others.

My colleague seemed to think that the LDS Church doctrine was not gace-focused enough. I brought up Paul's teaching in 1 Cor 5:11 that "brothers" in the faith judged unrepentant of fornication, idolatry, covetousness, railing, drunkenness, and extortion should not be permitted to partake of the Lord's Supper unworthily and even be excommunicated from the Church.   

In response my friend, a Presbiterian, confessed he was sort-of a Calvinist and that it was his opinion that you can never overcome the flesh and never be perfect in this life so the doctrine of the Church should be focused on the grace of Christ that makes whatever we are-- good enough in Christ.  Christians should lift up their heads and rejoice in knowing they are saved and have arrived to an assurance of salvation through Christ.  Then only afterward, through that assurance of salvation in Christ, will they walk a godly walk in Christ.

Now, let me get to the point of all this. LDS do not deny the weakness of the flesh, nor do we believe we will arrive at perfection in this life. However, what we do believe is this: as James said, the purpose of religion is to help us keep ourselves unspotted from the world.  If religion is not helping me overcome the flesh, repent, resist the constant temptation, master the body, and sin less; than what good is it. Being assured of salvation is great, but sin still has terribly painful consequences.  That is why it is important to believe that the atonement of Christ is not just about grace to forgive sin but also grace and power to be better, to overcome sin, repent and forsake sin; "being thoroughly furnished unto all good works". 

That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (New Testament, 2 Timothy 3:17)

LDS doctrine doesn't deny grace but focuses on what grace applied can do.  Accordingly, LDS doctrine is repentance focused. LDS doctrine continually says that we can all, through the grace and power of Christ, continually "try a little harder to do a little better."  LDS know we can never be perfect in this life, but we also know we should never feel like we have arrived.  And not just about paying tithes and offerings, but in all aspects of our Christian discipleship. The LDS sermon is always encouraging us that through Christ we can serve others more, we can be more patient, forgiving, and humble.  LDS doctrine says that we ought to pray and fast and work more to do better.  And that is exactly why I go to Church, not to seductely hear (what my flesh wants to hear) that I have arrived.  Instead LDS doctrine tells me (what my spirit wants to hear and what my body needs to hear) to continually continue to improve and progress.

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (New Testament, Matthew, Matthew 4:17)

This attitude of never being finished, but continually stiving and enduring in Christ to be better is the true Christian path of discipleship that LDS aspire to.  There is not any point on the path that guarantees salvation more than any other point.  If you are on the path of Christian discipleship and continually striving and enduring and making progress through Christ to the end of your life; then as Elder McConkie has taught, if you are anywhere on the path when you die, "since there is no such thing as falling off the path in the next life, for all intents and purposes, your calling and election is made sure".  Thus we are all commanded to get on and stay on the path of true Christian discipleship and finish our course by enduring to the end.

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: (New Testament, 2 Timothy 4:7)

What are the benifits of LDS doctrine focus on repentance?:
1. Encourages and inspires me to be better in and through Christ in all aspects of my life.
2. Creates a community of safety, trust and unity where members are living up to a standard of conduct 1 Cor 5:11 and stiving to improve in other ways.
3. Encourages and inspires virtuous and moral living that remedies poverty.  "Christ takes the slum out of the person and the person takes themselves out of the slum."
4. Provides an assurance or hope of salvation in Christ through our faith demonstrated by our continual attitude, words and actions of striving and enduring to be more Christ-like.

If your church is not talking about, speaking out against, receiving confession for, and providing discipline for abortion, sexual sin and any form of recreational substance abuse according to 1 Cor 5:11-13, you are giving your gold to and dancing around the golden calf.  The unrepentant are commanded not to partake of the Lord's Supper unworthily.  

This is a merciful way to prevent the wayword, whom we love, from developing a false sense of security.  We all sin but those who continue in serious sin according to 1 Cor 5:11 should not be allowed to go through the motions of religious observance and partake of the sacraments.  In most cases we examine our own hearts.  In serious cases, the Bishop as a Judge in Israel serves to judge ritual purity as the High Priest did in the Old Teatament.

Radio talk show host Michael Savage is warning in his latest book that the demoralization and increased socialization of the US is dividing us and leading us to another civil war.  His solution is to vote republican this November and then constrain our republican representatives to close the borders, end the wars, and stop the welfare.  We should be careful to understand that shutting off welfare to the Barbarian Foederati is exactly what caused them to revolt, assassinate Caasar Romulus Augustus and divided the Roman Empire.

Instead, to save America and Constitutional government, the Churches in America need to repent and begin to do their job to care for the poor and needy (beginning with their own) and to teach virtue and morality. Then the poor and disabled will no longer be dependent on government. We have been demoralized as a nation and our only hope as a nation is to return to Jesus Christ who is the God of this nation by a return to virtue and pure religion.

Friday, October 03, 2014

"Are We Prepared?"

President Thomas S. Monson, president and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wrote an article in the September "Ensign" magazine on the principle preparedness and self-reliance.  President Monson began the article, as he does so often, telling an anecdote from his past. 

President Monson told of a service project where he spent a day pulling weeds and burning debris from around a poutry farm. However, Pres. Monson relates "there was just one disastrous problem. The noise and the fires so disturbed the fragile population of 5,000 laying hens that most of them went into a sudden molt and ceased laying."  

Pres. Monson related that "Thereafter we tolerated a few weeds so that we might produce more eggs."  

Without lighting fires or sounding any alarms, the prophet of the Lord instructs all members and everyone everywhere to perfect our skills, avoid debt, save and set some money aside, and have a supply of food, clothing, and, where possible, other necessities of life.

I think the molting chicken story is a very timely one. I am sure there are some who expect a prophet of God to be sounding the alarm and be continually foretelling impending doom.  However, Pres. Monson tells us that it we can be instructed exactly how to prepare for difficult times without causing needless worry, stress and fear that may cause many members to go "into a molt" and to cease being productive.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Boy Scouts of America

I am currently in the middle of taking a "Wood Badge" course (owl patrol) which is the Boy Scouts of America advanced adult leadership training.  The LDS Church loves scouting.  In fact, the LDS Church sponsors near 38% of total BSA units. (assuming 100,000 units).  Scouting is the youth program in the LDS Church.  Nearly every LDS congregation sponsors cub scout, boy scout, varsity team, and venture crew units.

"For All The Boys"
There has been some controversy in the media about BSA policy with regard to accepting boys who are homosexual. The BSA policy to continue to allow homosexual boys has caused some churches to abandon BSA.  When LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson was asked about the LDS view on this issue Pres. Monson responded emphatically, "scouting is for all the boys".  In reality, the BSA decision is not really a change.  Boys with same-gender attraction are expected to be "morally straight" along with all the rest of the boys and leaders.

Pres. Monson wrote about how scouting serves as a bridge.
Scouting is a bridge between the LDS faith and other religions.  Scouting is a bridge between the LDS Church and the community. For LDS members, scouting is a bridge to organization, membership, and fuller activity.  For the LDS boy scout, scouting is s bridge to adulthood, from the Aaronic to the Melchizedek priesthood, to serving a full-time mission, and to marrying in the temple.

I have both a Bachelors and Masters degree in Biochemistry.  In addition to the many lecture courses, I was also expected to take a number of laboratory classes.  Labs gave me a chance to put into practice many of the concepts that I was learning in lecture.  In a similar way, scouting gives young men the opportunity to apply and put into practice the moral values they learn on Sunday.  Scouting provides many opportunitues to practice Christ-like attributes though participating in community service or by sharing your water with a fellow scout on a hike.

Values and Discipline
Many people participate in competitive sports, martial arts, or even join the military in order to learn values, disciple, and develop leadership skills. Instead of learning discipline through competition or the art of war, how much better to learn values and discipline by participating in a service organization like BSA that practices the art of peace?

Wood Badge
Wood Badge is a 6-Day training experience divided up into 2, 3-day weekends.  I grew up in LDS scouting and participated in Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Exolorer Scouts.  Having grown up in scouts, I know what scouts is supposed to look like.  I've attended blue-and-gold banquets, participated in pinewood derbies, and survived several 50-miler adventures.  However, for the newcomer to scouting, I'm sure it could be difficult to run a cub scout or boy scout unit if you had never seen it done before. That is what Wood Badge is all about. Wood Badge provides its participants with a full scouting experience compressed down into 6 eventful and exhausting days.

In addition to camping, cooking and other outdoor skills, Wood Badge participants receive valuable leadership training in the Partrol Method, Effective Listening, EDGE Method, and Group Dynamics.  Wood Badge patrols are given numerous team-building games and activities as well as learning about the history, vision, and purpose of scouting.  

Patrol Method 
When you get a big group together, you are likely to get the formation of cliques with some members feeling left out.  Patrols make sure every member of the troop belongs and is a productive part of a team.  Also, like hyperthreading in a computer CPU, having multiple partrols makes it possible for multiple tasks to be accomplished at the same time (in parallel). 

A big part of teaching begins with effective listening. Effective listening involves both listening for content but also reading body language.  Also, empathetic listening involves listening for understanding, emotional validation, and emotional availibility (sharing a feeling) while at the same time being able to provide correction or redirection.  Effective listening builds a relationship of trust and opens the door for teaching.

EDGE Method
"EDGE" stands for Explain, Demonstrate, Guide, and Enable.  Sometimes scout leaders can get into the bad habit of asking scouts to perform tasks that the scouts have not been adequately trained to do.  Inevitably, the result is that scout is unsuccessful and the scout leader has to swoop in and save the day.  This can create an unhealthy dependent relationship between the scouts and the leader. Instead of gaining confidence and indepentance, scouts with ineffective leadership can loose confidence.

Boy Led
Scouting is supposed to be boy led.  Ideally, scouts should be empowered to plan activities, plan meals, shop, pack, set up camp, cook and clean up afterwoods with appropriate instruction guidance and supervision.  Scout Leaders should not be doing all the work. In fact, this "boy led" principle is not just a scouting principle but an eternal principle.  In the LDS Church, young men at age 12 are given the Aaronic priesthood and the deacons quorum president is given priesthood keys and authority to make assignments and administer the Lords Supper each Sunday under the direction of the Bishop.

Group Dynamics
Whenever a new group gets together, enthusiasm is high and skills are low.  There may be strong personalities and even stronger opinions.  As group members get to know one another and gain trust, the group goes through a progression of stages: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing.  It is important to recognize these stages especially "storming" so you can effectively progress to the performing stage. Validating everyone in the group may require patience and flexibility to try things a new way.

Game With Purpose
Scouting has been described as a "game with a purpose".  However, if scouts is all just fun and games, then the boys are missing out on the purpose.  The purpose of scouting is to teach a boy His duty to God and his country. Scouting is meant to instill within him the 12 values of the scout law. The cheers, songs, skits, and games are the appetizer.  The faith, values and virtue are the main course

Return to Virtue
I work in a busy Emergency Room and I see the consequences of poverty every day.  Sexual immorality leading to illigitamacy and drug abuse leading to addiction are the leading causes of poverty in America.  Poor American's are increasingly becoming dependent on Government welfare which never addresess the virtue issues at the root of the problem.  Consequently over the last 100 years we have seen the steady demoralization of America into a voting block that is increasingly voting for those progressive/liberal politicians who support the steady errosion of our individual liberty and freedom.  We are seeing the slow death of our nation.

I have to admit being shocked when I brought up "chastity and sobriety" as an example of morals during a Wood Badge lecture when the instructor labeled these as "personal beliefs".  I was surprised that there were scout leaders for which the Scout Oath to "keep themselves mentally awake, and morally straight" took on a different meaning.  

Duty to God
The LDS "Duty to God" program works in concert with the Scouting program.  scouting teaches a boy that he must live up to and perform his duty to God.  However, scouting leaves it up to each individual family and church to tell a boy what that duty is. The LDS Church has the Duty to God program and "For the Strength of Youth" which defines exactly what that duty is.  The LDS Duty to God is not a laundry list of tasks to be performed and marked off once and never again. Instead, the program invites boys to make lifestyle commitments to pray, read scriptures, and give service that will become lifelong habits.

LDS Mission
Scouting is helping LDS youth resist temptation; keeping themselves morally clean and sober.  After completing scouting and after High School,  LDS young men together with young women are encouraged to serve LDS missions. LDS missionaries are sent around the world as social and spiritual therapists to encourage individuals and families to do their duty to God and Family by praying regularly, reading scripture and attending church. Socially LDS missionaries admonish others to live a life of integrity, chastity, fidelity, and sobriety by avoiding any addiction.  The LDS Mission is a life-changing experience but not if the missionary has not also lived what he or she is preaching.  Scouting helps boys live clean and virtous lives so they can become missionaries of the Lord with great moral and spiritual authority.

I have a soon-to-be 14-year-old son who is actively participating in scouting.  I am grateful for the many leaders who have devoted their time to mentoring him.  I have served off and on in various limited capacities in scouting mostly as a parent and merit badge counselor.  But I recognize the great value in scouting as a bridge, a laboratory, and as a game with the purpose of instilling in both youth and adults principles of faith, virtue and freedom.

[Who knows if the scout uniform may be the uniform that will be worn by the righteous who will be gathered and organized to peacefully defend freedom, America, and Constitutional Government in the Last Days]