Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Ashura and Sacrifice

Ashura is a major Shi'a muslim holiday. Shi'a commemorate the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali (Imam Hussein), the grandson of Muhammad at the Battle of Karbala on the 10th of  Muharram (Abt. October 10th). Muslims use a lunar calendar so the date varies slightly each year on the Gregorian calendar.  Ashura is a day of rememberance, mourning and fasting for all martyrs and also an observance of Jihad which is considered a 6th pillar of Islam faith.

Ashura can also observed by Sunni muslims who commemorate God's deliverance of Israel. Sunni's believe that Moses fasted on this day in thanksgiving for Allah's parting the Red Sea.

There is considerable variation in observance of Ashura among different Shi'a and Sunni communities.  Generally, it is a day of mourning, introspection, and fasting.  Many muslims may choose to not listen to music that day.  Shi'a muslims in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan,  may participate in cutting of the forehead, blood-letting and bloody self-flagellation.  Observers wear white clothing which is stained red with their blood. Some muslim clerics prohibit blood-letting, while others encourage blood donation to the Red Cresent Society. 

The reasons for blood letting and self-flagellation varies.  Generally, it can be viewed as a commemoration and penance for the Battle of Karbala and other religious battles.  It can be a recommitment of muslims to devote their life to follow God and overcome the weakness of the flesh. It is also believed that observance of Ashura produces a forgiveness of sin.

Ritual self-flagellation is not unique to Muslims. Some Catholic monastic orders and members of Opus Dei practice self-flaggelation.  Processioners during the Passion of Christ in the Philippines, Mexico, and Peru may also participate in self-flaggelate and blood-letting as they reinact Christ's suffering leading up to His crucifixion.  These practices were dramatized by the character Silas in "The DaVinci Code".  Practicioners of self-flaggelation feel that they can be closer to God as they join in with Christ in His suffering. 

Latter-day Saints do not recognize or practice "blood atonement". Only the blood of Christ forgives sin. Christ was the great and last blood sacrifice.  The shedding of blood of any other human, or animal or even our own blood cannot expiate or atone for our sins.  True Christan's accept the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ by receiving the ordinance of baptism and participation in and partaking of the Lord's Supper or sacrament each week. 

Brigham Young mentioned the idea of what some call "blood atonement" in a only a few of his myriad discourses.  It is my opinion that Brigham Young was teaching about the process of receiving a hope of forgiveness for what the Book of Mormon calls the "unpardonable sin".  This is not some mystical doctrine but just the proper application of the steps of repentance for very serious sins. 

Some people like Sherem in the Book of Mormon and the malifactor crucified next to Christ considered their sins so terrible that they were unpardonable and beyond the reach and power of Christ's atonement. This isn't "death-bed" repentance but about a man who finally came to himself, confessed his sin, accepted his punishment, accepted and defended Christ against the accusations of the other malafactor who said "if thou be the Christ, save thyself and us".  Christ told the penitent thief, "To day shalt thou be with me in paradise."

Many people involved in dark conspiracies wish they could escape but continue to go along with the false promise that they will escape judgement and that they could not possibly be forgiven anyways.  Conspiracies prevent infiltration from spies by requiring members to commit terrible acts involving murder and pedophilia to enter the inner circles and upper echelons. 

However, scripture teaches that forgiveness may be possible through the atonement of Christ by 1. accepting Jesus Christ 2. full public confession 3. voluntarily accepting required punishment for sin.  Conspiracy loves to send false defectors and so-called insiders who come over from the bad side to the good side.  However, if they really were an insider, the sins they would be confessing to would likely require capital punishment, or being placed in a public online database and imprisonment. But the way the good side could tell that a defector had truely repented would be that they made a full confession, and accepted the full consequences of their sins with no appeals or plea-deals. Their voluntary acceptance of punishment would seal the truth of their public confession. 

I'm not sure if there is necessarily any requirement to having your blood ritually shed on the ground. This maybe partly the reason death by firing squad is preserved as an approved method of execution in Utah. But even if it was a component of the process, it would only be secondary to the proper steps of confession, restitution and repentance.

What positive can we learn from Ashura and the ancient amd modern practice of self-flagellation? Christ's atonement represented the great and last blood sacrifuce.  God will no longer accept sacrifuce by the shedding of blood of any animal. The God wanted all along was a sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Even though the Law of Moses is fulfilled, and true followers of God no longer practice animal sacrifice, the Law of Self-sacrifice itself is still very much a thing and can bring us closer to Christ.

Instead of pondering on and calculating how much blood you can lose without passing out, I prefer to think of ways I can sacrifice my time, talents, and resources to peaceably build God's kingdom on the Earth and serve others. And although we are counseled to not run faster than we have strength, I believe sacrifices should stretch us, make us a bit uncomfortable, and even hurt a little. Self-sacrifice in this way can bring us closer to God and Christ and can result in the spiritual strength to repent of, forsake and be forgiven of sin. However, we cannot continue in sin, and think giving charity or service alone (indulgences) without true repentance will hide our sins. 

"And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins." (1 Peter 4:8)

Friday, October 21, 2016


"Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken." Luke 21:26

Jesus Christ explained the dire circumstances that would exist befire His second coming in glory.  Why will men's hearts fail?  Why will some turn away from the truth during the Tribulation?  Maybe it's not just because hard times of the Tribulation but also because God's own kingdom is also shaken up.

Apostles and Prophets say a test is coming for LDS members.  I think when nuclear war comes with Russia and China vs. the West, I wouldn't be surprised if voices arose questioning why the LDS people weren't specifically warned ahead of time.

President Monson addressed this concern in a talk entitled "Are we prepared".  Food and water storage is the best defense for war. Also, President Monson gave a parable of lighting fires putting chickens in a molt.

Also, LDS Apostles and Prophets warned in 1995 that the degredation of family values would bring upon nations the "calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets". I have written before how Russia, China, and Muslim extremists continually use the immorality of the West as a justification for their actions. Our immorality degrades our moral authority and emboldens evil.

Also, if you expect a modern prophet to tell you the day before that such-and-such is about to occur.  What could you do more than how every Latter-day Saint has already been instructed to do with regard to storage of food and water and fleeing to the Stakes of Zion for refuge. Maybe this period of relative silence is foretold in Revelation and Jericho and represents Christ's silence at His trial. (so he opened not His mouth).

On the other hand. Some LDS are awake and are watching the events unfold in the world.  Could some of these hearts also fail by being tempted go beyond the mark such that they feel they can go it alone without the Church and choose not to flee to the Stakes of Zion at the needed time?

Monday, October 03, 2016

General Conference Personal Answers

Members of the LDS Church are entitled to personal revelation as they listen to and study the inspired words spoken at general conference.  President Uchtdorf invited members in 2011, "As you prepare for general conference, I invite you to ponder questions you need to have answered.... Make a list of questions or concerns you would like help with. Ponder and pray about your list, asking to receive guidance during conference."

1. Missionary Work: share the gospel with everyone, not just friends.  Don't judge who you think will accept. Find out what others are pondering and how the LDS doctrine and Book of Mormon answers their specific questions of the soul.  Share details of God's great plan of happiness.  Investigators are more interested in the positive effect of the gospel on their lives before they will consider accepting the doctrine. 

2. Family: Your children are your most important gospel investigators.  Share with them your testimonies of Christ and His gospel and express gratitude for the blessings of the gospel in your and their lives. Read to them from the Book of Mormon every day. 

3. Doctrine: Salvation is not about being good enough. We will never be good enough but it is about being deemed acceptable before God through Christ.  God's love is perfect, infinite and eternal but not unconditional.  The glad tidings of the gospel are the conditions of repentance and the conditions of eternal life that when met will both extend mercy and satisfy the demands of justice. Eternal life is conditional.  We must abide in God's love and grace.

Paul continued to struggle with a "thorn of the flesh".  Paul's being born again wasn't about being saved in his sin but continually striving to repent, overcome and enduring to the end. 

4. Hometeaching: Watch over the members.  Monthly visits are the ideal but do the best you can.  "Everything counts". Encourage families in their spiritual duties and receiving spiritual blessings.  Have my HT companion son Devin help arrange appointments. 

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Sunday Afternoon General Conference October 2016

Elder Bednar- Only those who do the will of the Father. JST Ye never knew me" "Ye know me not".  If ye had known me ye would have known the Father. 1. exercise faith, 2. following, 3. serving, 4. believing Him.  True faith always leads to righteous behavior. We are to be doers not hearers only. Peter and Andrew left their nets.  Disciples are to take up their cross and follow Him. We are to emulate Christ.  Our desires align with His. Can we serve Christ but not believe Him?  Some don't think blessings apply to them. "Help thou my unbelief".   Believe Christ personally. Do we believe what we know. Give away all our sins to know Him.  Surrender our will to His. 

President Ashton- Atonement of Christ sets the conditions of salvation.  Doctrine is the means.   Being born again is a process.  Doctrine: 1. Faith by hearing, then doing, 2. Repentance. daily process of sanctification. 3. Baptism and Sacrament 4. Gift of Holy Ghost if we receive it. 5. Endure We are blessed even in trials until we possess every good thing.  Prepare for sacrament. Apply the doctrine of Christ.

Elder Cook- Put it in compound gear to get more torque.  Ward Council is like putting the engine in compound gear. Serving is an opportunity.  Excuses: i'm too old, I don't know enough, I'm to busy or too tired.  The Lord wants us to gear down and power up. Christ volunteered: "Here am I, send Me".   Just Serve! 

Elder Rasband- "crisis of faith". Heavenly Father are you really there?  Christ gave His life for us.  His final days were brutal.  Hel 5:12: "Remember, Remember".  Recall times when you felt the Spirit .  Remember the foundation of your faith.  Avoid things that detract.  Spirit will bring those things to your remembrance. To be learned is good if we harken to the counsels of God. Teach them to your sons and sons sons.  Feel and recognize the Spirit.  Journals will help your own words bring to your remembrance the spiritual witness and grace of God. Name children to scriptural heroes and faithful progenitors.  We may receive a prompting and then doubt later. How we quickly we can forget. As you faithfully serve and keep covenants your testimony will be protected from storms of doubt. Seek that which will edify. Do not forget. 

Elder Schmutz- View trials through eye of faith to see its purpose. Why do bad things happen to good people? Don't let temporary sorrow eclipse eternal joy.  We are to be obedient in any circumstance and faithful in tribulation. God will help us bare our trials.  Paul prayed about a thorn in his flesh. Brother in Philippines was saved from fire by his son but entire family was killed. He became a patriarch and remarried and had faith in Gods assurance of eternal family. Purposeful suffering can be ennobling.  God will wipe away all teats from our eyes. Endure well in faith. 

Elder Nattress- My angel mother's single goal written in her scriptures: "Patience with Brett."  Why are you reading the Book of Mormon to us every morning when I am even not listening.  "I was in a meeting with Marion G Romney who promised us if we would read the Book of Mormon to our children every day we would not lose them-- And I will not lose you".  Do our children know their Savior?  

Elder Renlund- Lit firecracker in overflow of Church. The smell distracted from the sacrament. I told the bishop was sorry.  He had me read, "He will confess them and forsake them". I "will remember them no more".  Without Christ repentance is behavior modification. Atonement can wash any stain but it will not be imposed.  Don't shift blame, excuse, minimize, or think it doesn't matter. We are agents to act and to choose. "What win I if I gain the thing I seek?"- Shakespeare. Now is the day of your salvation.  Immediately the plan of redemption will be brought about unto us.  We can feel joy and peace of conscience. 

Sunday Morning Session General Conference October 2016


President Monson- Man's Search for Happiness at NY World's Fair.  LDS Doctrine answers questions of the soul of where we came from, why we are here, and the purpose of life.  We need to love the truth.  God's purpose is to bring to pass the eternal life of man.  We need to adopt the same purpose. 

Elder Nelson- Perilous times will come.  Lehi teaches spiritual survival. Lehi taught "Men are that they are to have joy." Even after extermination order, no one complained, all were optimistic, and cheerful.  Saints can be happy under all circumstances. Happiness depends on our focus.  Christ is the source of all joy. Afflictions will be a small moment and will be consecrated to our gain.  Joy of repentance and being clean. Suffering can be swallowed up in joy of Christ.  Disappointment, tragedy and chastening turned to joy. Korihor sought to interrupt joy.  Feel joy keeping covenants, forgiving and serving. In His presence is a fulness of joy.  Every day can be one of joy and gladness. 

Elder Meurs- 1. Prepare for Sabbath Day and partaking of sacrament. Participation in the Lords Supper helps us put off the natural man.  Helps us remember Christ and our covenants.  2. Arrive early. not a time to socialize. 3. Listen and learn from doctrinal hymns. 4. Spiritually participate. Ponder the meaning of the emblems of bread and water.   Are we willing? Fruits of the Spirit are promised to us.  5. Ponder on Christ. Ponder on the gifts of His resurrection and atonement, that we will be resurrected and not suffer as He did. Sacrament does not remit sin itself but the sanctifying Holy Ghost which follows.

Sister Reeves- Satan may try and convince us that the best thing is to protect others from the truth.  The right Christ-like thing is to confess and repent. There was broken-heartedness, embarrassment, discipline, anger, etc. Missionary was sent home after making a belated confession. He went home but came back. Pain of repentance is swallowed up in joy of forgiveness.  Greatest miracle is repentance and change of heart via the  atonement of Christ.

Elder Ballard- Intercessory prayer.  May we be one with our families and with God.  Many disciples walked away from Christ.  Christ asked his apostles, "will ye also go?"  People find many reasons to leave. "To whom shall you go?"  Consider the long-term impact. Never abandon Joseph Smith and Christ's Church. Give equal time. Don't give up your testimony. Time will eventually address your concern even if it now seems currently unexplainable. Were will you go for a culture of caring and standards? Where will you go to find temple covenants?  If we diligently search the answers will eventually come.  Support those with questions.   Storms will buffet the good ship Zion, remember that Christ is aboard and can rebuke the sea and the stark.  

Bishop Davies- Christ's appearance in America was accompanied by destruction. We come to Church to worship. We should seek to worship. Worship leads to hope. Hope leads to Charity and love for our fellowman.  Worship can transform meetings into a spiritual feast. 

Elder Robbins- Christ is the righteous judge and taught disciples how to judge. Condemning Pharisees didn't know the joy of rescuing lost sheep. Son of Man came to save.  Respond with compassion and understanding without shame, but not without discipline and chastening. Judge in Israel holds the keys to unlock the prison. Joseph Smith was disciplined. Heart-changing lessons require heartrending discipline.  Do not trivialize Christ's suffering. Remorse replaced by comfort. Reprove at times by Spirit not anger. Spirit of Lord is kindness, patience and not fault-finding.  How you see them = how you treat them.  Person to be loved > problem to be solved.

President Eyring- Gratitude is how we worship. Serve God and thank Him in all things and do all things in the name of Christ. God and Christ are the source of all blessings. Recognize God's hand in all things.  Be grateful we are there at all, for sacrament, for forgiveness.  God is building his kingdom quietly. We cannot see the effects of our service.  Church of God will be small, scattered, but glorious.  Submit cheerfully. God will honor His covenants He has made with His people.