Thursday, April 24, 2014

Conditions of Repentance

A friend asked how an LDS Bishop could be so hard on their son who wanted to serve an LDS mission but was still struggling with a certain sin and addiction.  The Bishop had said if the son can be clean 6 months he could serve.   The son had been very depressed about his addiction even to the point of suicidal ideation.  The parent blamed the depression on the Church and the Bishop and not the sin. The parent didn't think that religion should be the cause of so much guilt.  She then said that she was happy that her son had left the Church and became Buddist because, while he hasn't repented, he no longer seemed as depressed.

My reponse is that it is my experience that I have found the True God though repentance.  It is not correct to send a young man still addicted to pornography and actively masterbating on a mission.  But if he can forsake the sin and demonstrate some self control for 6 month period then he can serve.  Does it make sense for a young man to teaching repentance and committing people to keep laws of morality and self-control when he himself has not repented and is not keeping those standards of virtue himself?

Seeking another religion instead of dealing with our sins is an unfortunate and common response.  That is why false religion is so alluring.  False religion gives a person the false idea of a relationship with God without expectations.   Well the true God cannot look at sin with the least degree of allowance.  Obedience yields blessings and sin brings painful consequences.  We do not have to be perfect, as yet, but we are expected to live up to God's minimum standards and "deny ourselves of all ungodliness" only then we can be perfected in Christ.

It is very sad when a loved one is struggling so much with sin that they can experience deep depression even to the point of suicidal ideation.  I have a friend struggle with this.  It can be tempting to try and turn the blame on society or church standards as the root cause of the pain and guilt and not on the sin and on Satan who accuses us.   

The evangelical teaching taught by the priests of Noah against Abinadi was that the gospel was supposed to be happy all the time because didnt Isaiah say "how beautiful upon the Mountains are the feet of them who publish peace".  The gospel of Christ should be always happy and focused on His mercy and love and forgiveness.

Modern scriptures and the Book of Mormon clarify this that Christ came to 1. save us from our sins and not in our sins. 2. the good news of the gospel is the "conditions of repentance" 3. our doctrine should be repentance focused 4.  We are saved by grace after all we can do.  5. All we can do is "make use of the means God has provided for us". 6 the "means" God has provided us is the atonement of Christ, repentance, keep covenants, etc.(Alma 60). 7. We can by perfected in Christ by first denying ourselves of all ungodliness and living God's standard in 1 Cor 5:11.  8. God's standard in 1 Cor 5:11 is the basis for the temple questions covers sexual sin, false religion and false doctrine, love of money, anger and abuse, chemical addiction and abuse, and dishonesty.

We don't have to be perfect in this life, but the good news is that if we come unto Christ, His atonement has both the grace and power to help us overcome and forsake these sins. Fogiven or not, sin carries painful consequences. I prefer a religion with the power to overcome and escape the painful sin then to accept the false idea that repentance isn't necessary, and that god accepts us in your sins, and as we are?   I want a religion that helps me repent and expects virtuous living. Individuals and families making a keeping covenants of virtue is what will create the Zion communities of peace and safety that we all desire.  James in the New Testament tells us that charity and virtue the whole purpose of "pure religion?"  If our religion fails to expect that we keep ourselves "unspotted from the world" then what good is it?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Parable of the Bike Trip

Heaven is a bike trip. You have to learn how to ride a bike to go on the trip . You have to learn to ride a bike before the trip. Some people learn how to ride early on. Others have a more difficult time and fall a lot and get many contusions and abrasions in the process. But as long as they learn how by the time of the trip they get to go on the trip. Christ example teaches us how to ride the bike and assures us that we have a period of time to try and try again until we get the hang of it.

By the way, there are different levels of bike riding skill.
Outer Darkness- concluded that bike riding isn 't their thing
Telestial- bike ride in neighborhood
Terrestrial- bike ride at the park
Celestial- long-distance cycling and mountain biking

Blood Atonement
Idolatrous nations believe in Blood Atonement.  To appease their gods representing peace and prosperity, safety and fertility, they must shed blood.  These nations offer their children, slaves, animals, or go to war.  These people don't care about the stone statue or golden idol.  What they want is safety and peace.

The True God teaches that only by accepting the blood of His Son's infinite sacrifice and keeping his commandments can a nation acheive true and lasting prosperity and peace.  Only a return to virtue can save us.

"Keep the commandments, keep the commandmemts in this there is safety, in this there is peace. He will send blessings, He will send blessings, words of a prophet, keep the commamdmemts. In this there is safety and peace"

Polygamy Perspective
My wife and children wouldn't exist without polygamy. Her ancestor was a rescuer of the Martin and Willie Handcart Company and they took in a survivor, nursed her back to health, and later were called to be sealed. A second home was built and a second family was raised up.

Sometimes we can unjustly judge the merits of polygamy based on how one or two individuals practiced it. With regard to early church polygamy, it is more important to look at the big picture of what was God's overall purpose and less how BY, JS or HCK did it. JS is criticized for too hesitantly accepting this commandment. BY and HCK are criticized for probably being too ambitious. But overall it served its overall purpose for the time.

We all know it is not true there was an excess of men. But frontier did have to manage the fatherless and widow. Polygamy served as a frontier welfare system.  
It is probably not true that the overall purpose was not quantity of children but probably quality. That is why polygamy was a calling and not an unmanaged "free-for-all". A married couple receiving this calling would have to have means to support a second household. This is far different to how many FLDS practice it where additional wives collect welfare. Polygamy was about managing poverty and not creating it.

If you don't like to equate marriage with welfare or responsibility/stewardship; consider these verses:

If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. (Old Testament, Exodus, Exodus 21:10)

Here things are flipped on its head. Women say they want children but can support themselves (welfare). 

And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach. (Old Testament, Isaiah, Isaiah 4:1)

I will therefore that the younger women (widows) marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. ... If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed. (New Testament, 1 Timothy, 1 Timothy 5:14-16)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sacrament Meeting Talk

Today, on this Easter Sunday, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we join together with the Christian World to commemorate the life, teachings, atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Today we remember that Jesus Christ was not just a great teacher or great prophet. Jesus of Nazareth did much more that just teach great sermons and perform good deeds. Today and every day we testify to the world that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, and the Son of the Living God. Today we remember that Jesus Christ came into the world and through the shedding of His blood and resurrection did for us what no mortal man could ever do.

What is the Atonement of Christ? The scriptures tell us that “In Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive”. When Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, they were cursed with death. First, eventual physical death which is the separation of their body and spirit. Second, is spiritual death which is the separation of our spirit from God. Christ's atonement and resurrection overcome both physical and spiritual death. Many Christians recognize that Christ “died on the cross for us” and resurrected. But some may not understand completely what happened before the cross in the Garden of Gethsemane. After the Last Supper Christ went to the Garden with Peter, James and John and while praying it says “That being in agony he prayed more earnestly and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” We know from modern revelation and restored scripture what exactly happened in the Garden that night.

“Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, year, how hard to bear you know not. For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; 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-- Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.”
So we know from the Doctrine and Covenants, Christ explains in His own words that when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane just after the Last Supper and prior to His crucifixion that in addition to dying on the cross, Christ took upon Himself the sins, and pains, and guilt of all people. Here Christ tells us Himself that the pain was so agonizing, so exquisite, that it caused God Himself to sweat blood from every poor of His body.

Honestly, I can't say I really understand or can explain how the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ was done, or how exactly it works. The atonement is the greatest gift and miracle ever given to mankind. Only Christ could pay the terrible debt of sin that we all individually carry. How many drops of blood were shed by the Savior for my sins and for your sin?

I don't understand what it is about the shedding blood that can pay a debt. Sometimes we say that the cost of freedom is blood. The scriptures say that America was “ the shedding of blood”. Also, when a patient comes to the hospital, oftentimes they must first give up some blood first before being healed and even receiving blood.

In the old days, many ancient cultures were polytheistic and believed in many gods. While these gods went by a variety of names, in reality, they all were all anthropomorphic representations for the same abstract ideas of prosperity, safety, security, and fertility. When ancient writing says that the people sought to appease their gods, these people really didn't care about making the various stone, wood or metal idol happy which were sitting in their local temple. What they wanted was a hope and an assurance of rain, good crops, peace, fertility, prosperity and security.
Inevitably, it there was a terrible storm, drought or other natural or economic disaster, false priests would rise up telling the people that to appease the gods and a return of peace and prosperity they would have to make a blood sacrifice of their children, slaves or animals. Thinking about it, do we practice this same kind of apostate and idolatrous false religion today? Are we guilty of sacrificing our unborn children, or making preemptive war to shed blood with a hope to preserve our economic prosperity and safety?

Christ offered a more excellent way. After His infinite atonement, Christ said that we no longer had to shed blood for prosperity, safety or security. We no longer would we have to go to war, or sacrifice animals. What we must do now is accept Christ's blood. Only Christ's blood can save us. Only Christ's blood will appease Our Father in Heaven. We accept Christ's blood being baptized and partaking weekly of the bread and water in remembrance of Him. Also, by offering up to Him a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Not only that, we must repent as individuals and as a nation and keep His commandments.

At Easter, the Jews celebrate Passover and their miraculous deliverance from slavery in Egypt. My family and I decided to observe Passover this year. I have a friend at work who is Jewish and talked with him about the correct way to do a Passover dinner called a Seder service. I am not so sure what we did was exactly Kosher, but it got me thinking. The first thing that God did after freeing Israel from slavery and bondage, was give them the 10 Commandments. Why did God give Israel the commandments? Because it is only by keeping the commandments that Israel's freedom could be preserved. And once that freedom is lost, only the shedding of blood can redeem and regain that freedom again. Why is that? It is because once wicked people are empowered, a wicked person usually will never voluntarily give up power. Also, an immoral people who give into any type of vice, or addiction like drugs, alcohol, or infidelity can be easily controlled and enslaved. The addicted brain in actual fact cannot think straight.

Today, we all are seeing the erosion of family values and morality in America and it should be no surprise that as we see the morality of America decline, we will also see a decline in our freedom. Many groups out there claim to want to preserve free government and the Constitution, but the only policy that will preserve our freedom in America is through a return to virtue.

For some odd reason, growing up in Salt Lake, about the time my friends and I were at the age we were reveiving our patriarchal blessings, rumors were spread around that so-and-so's brother received his patriarchal blessing, and in that blessing, it said that he would be called to serve a mission for the Lord but that during that mission, he would be “called home” to defend the Constitution. How silly is that? Be called home to defend the Constitution? Missionaries by teaching people to pray and keep the commandments of God are doing more to preserve the Constitution and preserve freedom than anyone could ever do.

I work in the Emergency Room, I am in the trenches and on the front lines of a great spiritual and social war in America. I see the casualties of this great war come in to the ER every day. My heart aches as I see the great pain and suffering many times caused by the very poor choices of themselves or others.

That is why I love missionary work so much. These missionaries sit down with individuals and families like spiritual and social therapists teach people to pray individually and as families, and teach and commit them to living laws of self restraint soberness, and morality. Every member of the Church can be a missionary and a defender of freedom by standing up for traditional family values and encouraging a return to virtue in America and in the world.

“Keep the Commandments, Keep the Commandments, in this there is safety, in this there is peace. He will send blessings He will send blessings, words of a prophet, keep the commandments, in this there is safety and peace.”

The Book of Mormon makes the point that Jesus Christ came to save us from our sins and not just in our sins. The great atonement of Jesus Christ is not just grace to forgive and overlook sin. The atonement of Christ is also power to overcome sin. We are told in scripture that the people reached a point were they had “lost all desire for sin or disposition to do evil, but to do good continually”. Thinking you are forgiven is nice, but unless you actually overcome the sin and completely forsake it, forgiven or not, sin still carries painful and serious consequences. I don't want the painful consequences, and I don't want the sin. That is why I am so thankful for the power of Christ that has the power to help us overcome all sin and any addiction or vice.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints understand the true relationship of God the Father and God the Son. Jesus Christ is God but not the same person as our Father in Heaven. Joseph Smith like Stephen the disciple who was stoned in the New Testament saw the glorified Jesus Christ standing on the right hand of God. Why is it important to understand that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? Because God the Father sent God the Son to Earth to condescend to our level and raise us up. When we accept Christ we feel that Christ is in us. And that is true, Christ's spirit is in us even thought we are not yet perfect. However, that is not the end. The point of Christ's spirit being with us and in us is so that His spirit will begin to empower us to repent, and change, and elevated us eventually back to the perfection of our Heavenly Father. If we stay as we are, then even though Christ is in us, we still will not be able to dwell in the presence of our Father in Heaven because we are told that “no unclean thing can dwell in His presence”. Christ condescends to our level not to leave us where we are but to raise us back up the the level of our perfect Father were we used to be.

The Young Men and Women's theme is: “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and live God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ”

In the Church of Jesus Christ, our sacrament meetings are very solemn and reverent. We don't have a band, we don't get excited or entertained, because this meeting is a memorial of the death of Christ. It is very much like holding a funeral service for Christ every week, and every sermon given at the pulpit is Christ's eulogy. Under the sheet covering the bread and water, it is made to look like Christ's body could be laying there and the Aaronic priesthood administer the bread and water to the congregation symbolizing partaking of the body and blood of Christ as a reminder that only His infinite atonement and only His death and His blood and save us

The good news of the gospel, is the conditions of repentance. And we know we are saved after all we can do? What is all we can do? Is this saying that we can do anything on our own without Christ? No! Captain Moroni in his letter to Pahoran in Alma 60 supplies us with the perfect understanding of what is “all we can do”. Captain Moroni is said by Mormon to have had a “perfect understanding” and in Alma 60, Captaun Moroni is explaining to Pahoran the conditions of deliverance which are the same exact conditions as the conditions of salvation. Captain Moroni asks if we “can we sit upon our thrones and think that God will still deliver us when we do not make use of the means the Lord has [already] provided for us?” That is the good news, that is the meaning of “all we can do” All we can do is make use of the means that the Lord has already provided for us. And those means are keeping His commandments and denying ourselves of all ungodliness, receiving baptism, and covenants in the temple, and joyfully serving in His kingdom.

I do not fully understand how the atonement of Christ was done, or how it works. But nevertheless, I know the atonement of Christ is real. I have felt the weight of sin on my heart and on my shoulders miraculously lifted by talking the appropriate steps of repentance. I have felt remorse, and regret, and guilt, and through repentance, I have been empowered to improve, to change, to forsake sin and addiction, and felt the wonderful return to the glorious peace of conscious mind and heart. I know it is real.

I have been fortunate in my life to have a wife and 5 beautiful and healthy children. When I consider the hardships of the pioneers, any little thing I have gone through so far pales in comparison. I was watching the Church's video of the Life of Joseph Smith. I didn't realize that at the same time he was translating the Golden Plates, and He and Emma Smith were being ostracized, and rejected by Emma's side of the family, that Joseph and Emma lost their first child. The movie showed Joseph digging a shallow grave to bury their first son. I have felt that pain, to hold one of my deceased children in my arms.

When it comes to moments like a death of your baby, that is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to religion. When it came to that painful time in my life April 3, 2002, when I was in Medical School and defending my Masters Thesis, I am so thankful for my testimony of Jesus Christ and the assurance I have that through Christ, His resurrection, His temple, and keeping His commandments, that my eternal family can and will be together forever. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ Amen.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Passover Seder Service

Our family together with our neighbors decided to observe Passover this year and have a Passover dinner/Seder Service.  I am sure the whole thing wasn't entirely Kosher, but the event was done respectfully and the kids enjoyed it. Here are some notes I took about putting on a Seder Service.

LDS Passover Seder Haggadah:

Zeroa- roasted lamb, Jesus Christ is the lamb slain from the foundation of world.
Beitza- boiled egg, life and new beginning.
Maror- bitter herb, bitterness of captivity
Charoset- mixed fruit and nuts, bricks and mortar represent the principle of labor and hard work.
Karpas- parsley dipped in salt water, hope for the future and tears of the past.
Matzah- unleaveded bread- Israel left Egypt with haste

Opening Prayer

Yom Tov = happy day.  The Passover story is told in our own language as if we ourselves had been freed from bondage and slavery.  The story of liberation from slavery is eveyone's story.

Kadesh- reciting the Kiddush- 
[drink first of 4 glasses of wine while reclined] Light candles.  Sabbath= God before mammon, God's love for all life. Jew, Gentile, heathen, slave, animal.

"And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made."

U'rechtaz- washing hands
Karpas- parsley dipped in salt water
Yachatz- breaking middle matzah
Wrap the larger piece in a napkin and hide.
Maggid- telling the story
"This is the bread of affliction which our forefathers ate in the land of Egypt.  Let all those who are hungry come and eat with us.  Let all those who are in need come and share our meal.  This year we are here.  Next year may we all be in the land of Israel.  This year we are slaves.  Next year may we all be free."

4 Questions:
1. How is this night different from all other nights?
2. Why do we eat unleavened bread?
3. Why do we eat bitter herbs?
4. Why do we dip our vegetables?

"Exodus 12:25-27 And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the LORD will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service. And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the LORD'S Passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped."

[Drink second cup of wine.] 
Read Psalm 113
Rachtzah- washing hands
Motzi Matzah- blessing meal and matzah
Shulchan Orech- the meal
Tzafun- the afikomen
[3rd cup of wine]
Barech- saying grace
Pour cup of wine for Elijah
Open the door for Elijah
Hallel- psalm of praise
Psalm 115-118; 136
[Drink 4th cup of wine]

Nirtzah- conclusion
"And so we end the Passover Seder.  We have conducted it according to custom, according to law. Just as we have been privileged to celebrate it in the future as well.  Pure One, God in Purity, and Oneness in heaven, restore Your countless people.  Speedily lead us redeemed to Zion in joy. Next year in Jerusalem."

Songs and Closing Prayer

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

LDS General Conference April 2014 Notes

Church Audit Committee- The Church lives on a budget, has no debt and saves for a rainy day. 

Elder Nelson-  Faith is the antidote for fear.  We shouldn't separate our religious and professional life.  If we live segmented lives we will never live up to the fullness of our personal integrity. Let your faith show. [Do wear your religion on your sleeve]

Elder Scott- Put God first in your life and help others by sharing your experiences, blessings and testimony.

Elder Oaks-  With regard to callings in the Lord's Kingdom, there is no stepping up or stepping down but only going forwards and backwards.  Keys of the priesthood carry the authority to authorize.  Keys of creation and resurrection have not been given to man. Women have been given divine authority to serve in temples and wards to serve under the keys of the priesthood.  Women are set apart by priesthood keys and receive priesthood authority to administer in the temple and to be full time missionaries.  Only men are set apart to offices in the priesthood.  We need to focus on responsibilities and not rights.  Blessings of the priesthood are available to both men and women on the same conditions. Both are endowed in the temple with the same priesthood power.

President Hallstrom (70)- Saying "that's just the way I am" is surrendering to satan.  We meet here because the way we are now is not who we can become.  We need to be different because we have made covenants.  Elder Holland can speak with enough fire to singe your eyebrows.  Be worthy.  Do all things in worthiness.  Sin chokes the priesthood.

President Ridd (YM)-  The internet provides choice and accountability.  What does your heart desire?  All thoughts and decisions leave their mark. We must train our desires to become our  ally and not our enemy. 

President Uchtdorf- Unlike Rip Van-winkle, do not sleep through the Revolution/Restoration.  Do not seek your own pleasure.  Those who loose their life shall find it.  Addiction: bound by straight jacket of our own making.  You can break free.  Beware: Selfishness, Addiction, Distraction.  With his hand on the throttle of Air Force 1, President Monson said "Dieter, don't even think about it".

President Eyring- Choose and emulate good heros.  Pray with real intent.  Prayer will change you.

President Monson-  Call to courage. " Get Out!" if we are found where we ought not to be.  Remain faithful even when no one is looking and even when facing ridicule. 

President Uchtdorf- in the gospel of Christ there are no endings but only eternal beginnings.

Elder Ballard- We are commanded by the Lord that the Church should be known by the title " the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints". Invite others to know more about the Church and follow up on your invitations.  If you consistently bare testimony then your sins can be forgiven.

Sister Stevens- Our Father knows us and hears the pleadings of our heart.

Bishop Stevenson- This life is your 4-minute olympic skeleton run.  You spent eternity in preparation and will spend eternity reflecting on it.  "let us run with patience the race that is set before us". We want to do our best but want others to do their best also.

Elder Bednar- The load of wood provided the weight for the truck to get the traction to get out of the snow and get back on the road.  We need to carry the right load to get spiritual traction.

President Monson- treat others with kindness and consideration.

Elder Walker- Live true to the faith. How could 500 men leave their homeless wives and children to heed the Prophet's call to enlist in the US Army forming the Mormon Battalion?

Elder Teh- Lay up in store treasure in heaven.  Do not sacrifice for that which is of no worth? Before ye seek riches, seek ye the Kingdom of God. Develop faith, hope, and charity.  Where your treasure is there will your heart be also.