Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mothers Day Message

I attend church with many faithful and courageous men and women who valiantly serve this country in the armed forces.  Many of these courageous Saints have and are risking their lives to preserve our freedoms. But there is other group of individuals at church that make a similar sacrifice who we tend to overlook- mother's.

And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it. (Book of Mormon, Alma, Alma 56:48)

This didn't make sense to me for the longest time.  The Son's of Helaman, the 2000 Stripling Warriors, in the Book of Mormon said that they learned their faith in God and in His power of deliverance from their mother's who knew and had experienced God's deliverance.  In addition to their miraculous conversion, these faithful mothers had never gone to war. When had their mothers been delivered?

Every time a mother is pregnant and delivers a baby, she is risking her life to bring a baby into this world.  Having and nurturing children also is integral to preserving our freedoms as a nation.  The armed forces are asked to preserve freedom by taking life, but women preserve freedom by giving it.  Without the rising of a righteous next generation, there would be no freedom-loving people to possess this land.

Satan is are great accuser.  Again and again Satan inspired people to say to Christ, "if thou be the Christ, save thyself".  Satan demeans and accuses mothers by inspiring some to ask mothers, "what else do you do?".   Everything we do in life and society, is to facilitate families raising a healthy and moral posterity to take our place in this land. I hope to never hear another LDS Saint ever accuse or attempt to make a mother feel like her life and sacrifice is not good enough. 

Many women have experienced considerable pain, trauma and even terror during pregnancy.  Consequently, in the same way our soldiers experience PTSD, mothers can experience post-partum and perinatal depression, anxiety and grief after a miscarriage or stillbirth. Our society doesn't give out purple hearts and silver stars to mothers who have been injured or displayed considerable valor in the face of great personal danger.  But we can and should honor and show appreciation to the women and mothers in our own lives. Everytime a mother is intoduced, like our soldiers, we can thank them for their service to this country. 

Liberation Theology

Liberation theology preaches that it is not enough for the church to simply empathise and care for the poor. Instead, the church needed to be a vehicle to push for fundamental political and structural changes that would eradicate poverty, even supporting armed struggle against oppressors.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints rejects liberation theology.  It is the primary responsibility of religion to care for the poor (pure religion).  Government welfare enables the poor by the redistribution of income without accountability.  But the Kingdom of God will end poverty by the power of covenant and morality and not the sword (keep himself unspotted from the world).  The policies with regard to poverty that need to change are not political ones but religious. When religions begin to do their job, the poor will no longer need to rely on government. (see James 1:27) 

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

The Power of Covenant

"Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men."(Book of Mormon, Alma 48:17)

Many wonder why the prophet Mormon in the Book of Mormon devoted so much time writing about war between the Nephites and Lamanites.  Captain Moroni was the chief general of all the Nephite Armies and a key figure. What are we to learn from the "war chapters"?  Mormon says that Moroni was a man with perfect understanding.  How is Captain Moroni's perfect understanding manifest in his execution of war?

Captain Moroni was such a great leader not just because he was such a great military strategist, but also because he understood the power of covenant and used the power of covenant and commitment to bind Satan and defeat his enemies.  While Satan is the great liar and deciever, the power and glory of God is manifest in His power to always keep His word.

Captain Moroni was able to rally and inspire the Nephites to the cause of freedom by helping them remember their covenants and commitments to their God, country, and family.  Captain Moroni wrote these commitments on his coat and created a banner called "the Title of Liberty".  The Title of Liberty became a great Nephite symbol ever after..

"And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole." (Book of Mormon, Alma 46:12)

Captain Moroni used the power of covenant not only to strengthen the righteous but also to win over his enemies.  Defeated Lamanites were always allowed to go free if they would commit to never returning to war against them. Many Lamanites accepted commitment instead of death.  However, other Lamanites perished because they knew they and their children would break their word.  These commitments freed the Nephites from having to feed and guard Lamanite prisoners.

Forgetting the warnings and lessons of the Book of Mormon is what brought condemnation upon the Early Church in Missouri.  The Missouri Saints according to Sec 101 of the Doctrine and Covenants failed to build the temple, and therefore were unable to recognize the church, at a low level, being infilltrated by the "enemy". Had the early Saints been more faithful and harkened to the lessons and warnings of the Book of Mormon about Conspiracy (See Helaman 6), and built the temple, they would have "seen the enemy afar off". 
How does the temple and temple covenants reveal evil?  Evil cannot bare the covenants of the Temple. A few might lie about their intent and wickedness and go to the temple, but they won't be regular attenders. Evil people generally have a very difficult time with commitments of morality, paying tithing, sustaining leaders and being active in the church.

Consequently, the Early Saints in Missouri were infilltrated by the illuminati, those illuminati started up the Danites that stirred up considerable trouble with the neighbors, resulting in the Mormon War and the expulsion of the Early Saints from Missouri.  This unfortunate series of events would not have happened had the Early Saints understood the power of covenant and had built their temple.
In the same way Captain Moroni used covenants to bind Satan and defeat his enemies, we must also learn to use covenants and commitments to fight the personal war that wages within each one of us.  Covenants and commitments have the power to bind Satan in our lives if we can learn to keep them. Ultimately it will be the power of covenant via Christ's Holy Temple that will bring about Christ's long-awaited millennial kingdom.
Just like Captain Moroni used the power of covenant and commitment to bind Satan and defeat his enemies, we can use the power of covenant to bind Satan in our own lives.  Is there an aspect of our lives which we feel Satan has power over us?  Do we have a weakness that we would like to turn into a strength? Like Captain Moroni, we can make commitments and goals to ourselves and to God to repent, to improve and to change. As we make and keep our commitments to ourselves and to God, we will experience and enjoy a greater outpouring of God's Holy Spirit. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Temple: Path to Purity and Peace

I have a Christian friend who is a great follower of Christ and dedicates his life to humanitarian service throughout the world. He was brought up Evangelical and has a wonderful Evangelical theology.  I asked my friend if he believed in the rebuilding of the Temple prior to Christ's Second Coming. My friend said he did. I then asked him if he thought the latter-day temple would serve any special purpose or if he believed the temple would be the mechanism by which Christ's millennial kingdom would be established?  My friend said no but, as he understood it, the future temple would serve as Christ's throne. 

This friend has had social encounters with several ex- or inactive Mormons who criticized the LDS Temple, the LDS Church and the standards of the Church for being too strict.  According to them, the LDS Temple standards like the Old Testament (OT) Temple are divisive and exclusionary when Christ's Church is supposed to be inclusive.  Doesn't the LBGT community make this same argument?

While the OT Temple was purposely divisive and segregated people into the priests and commoners, men and women, Jews and Gentiles, outwardly pure vs. impure; the Latter-day temple is to be established and accessible to all kingdoms, nations, tongues, and peoples. The Book of Mormon says, Christ invites all to come unto him: black and white, bond and free, male and family, and both Jew and Gentile. But the Latter-day temple doesn't do away with the requirements for purity. Holiness to the Lord is the whole purpose of this heavenly institution. Except, while the OT temple was concerned with outward purity, the Latter-day temple is concerned with inward purity.

Evangelical doctrine teaches very little about the purposes of the temple. This is not the fault of my friend.  It is just the consequence that temple theology is not taught in divinity and theological schools.  Evangelicals don't have temples so they don't teach completely about them.  They do correctly point out the purpose of the OT Temple was to emphasize our need for a Savior.

However, if you read what the Bible has to say about the purpose of Christ's Latter-day temple and its importance to us, we should immediately see that God's purpose for the temple is to benefit all mankind and not just God himself.

Isaiah 2:2-4: Temple will judge all nations and rebuke many peoples bringing about the long-awaited millennial peace on Earth.

Isaiah 65:16: God's people "swearing by the God of truth" brings about Mellennial peace and social equity.

Ezekiel 37:26:  Temple will serve to unify and purify Israel.

Daniel 2:35-44: Temple is the mechanism that destroys all false worship and establishes Christ's kingdom in all the Earth.

Malachi 3:1-5: Temple is the mechanism to purify the sons of Levi and judge and witness against evil in the world.

Revelations 3:12-21: Temple is not just Christ's throne alone but, after a little rebuke, chastening, and repentance, will be the throne room of the sanctified who will be enabled to sit with Christ in his throne with Him.

Revelation 18:4;19:8: God's people called out of Babylon by rejecting sin.  Second Coming likened to marriage covenant with God's people dressed in white representing righteous works.

Revelation 22:14: Only those who "do his  commandments" may enter into the New Jerusalem. 

What do you do in the Temple?  The temple is the place of covenant.  In addition to offering covenants to those who are deceased, the temple also offers covenants to those who are alive.   In the temple, followers of Christ make sacred promises to God to live the laws of obedience and sacrifice. So why make covenants? Isn't that an old-timey, Old Testament thing to do?

My wife Ruth had a great observation about the importance of the Temple and Temple covenants.  Some people say there is no more need or purpose of covenants.  Some people see commandments and covenants as limitations and only bringing guilt, judgement, and condemnation.

If Evangelicals see no importance in covenant making or covenant keeping, why would any evangelical get married at all? And why insist on having a ceremony in the Church?  Why not just tell people, "we are together now" and go with that?  What does going to the Church and having the pastor commit the husband and wife to each other before God to be faithful to each other in sickness and in health?  We all do this right? Why would we all do this if it didn't help? Similarly, physicians have a long history of taking the Hippocratic Oath to "do no harm". Our government officials, military and public safety officers take oaths to defend the Constitution. Is there no value in this?

As New York Times columnist David Brooks said: “People are not better off when they are given maximum personal freedom to do what they want. They’re better off when they are enshrouded in commitments that transcend personal choice—commitments to family, God, craft and country." -quoted Elder Perry, April 2015 General Conference.

Well, for the exact same reasons we value church marriage ceremonies, any Christian should see the value in making additional eternal covenants in the Temple which serve to restrain the natural man, purify and sanctify us.  Our natural man continually wants to take whatever it can get all the time.  But the eternal covenants of the temple magnify the grace and power of Christ in us, making weak things strong and endowing us with power against the temptations of the devil and the weaknesses of the flesh. 

God equates our relationship with Him to a marriage. Consider what level of behavior our spouses required of us before they were willing to marry us.  No one is perfect, but I'm sure there are some behaviors that would have been a deal breaker.  Our living up to any standard, and especially that our spouses marry us at all, is empowered by the grace of Christ. The standards of purity are a way for us to get real and see if we are being serious about accepting and applying Christ's grace or if we need more true belief.  What we don't want to do is go through the motions of religious observance and just be deluding ourselves about our sincerity. This is why Christ warned His followers not to take his name in vain or partake of the Lord's Supper unworthily.

The covenants of the Holy Temple will one day serve as a  standard by which the people can judge and select our leaders.  Today corrupt leaders are chosen based more on arbitrary merit, family and secret relationships and less based on personal virtue.  Consequently, we are surprised when our leaders are continually caught in all sorts of scandals and nothing ever gets better. Additionally, the covenants of the temple help end poverty by getting to root cause of poverty and disease which is many times impacted by substance abuse, idleness, sexual immorality, illegitimacy and broken families.  While we are all sinner, and not everyone who is poor is an immoral idler, scripture and social statistics testify that sin is a great contributor to poverty as well as the rich being unwillingness to aid the poor.

Why is government not the answer to poverty?  Government is great at taxing and then printing and distributing checks. But, the redistribution of wealth does nothing to address the virtue issues at the root of poverty.  On the other hand, when religion does its job to provide welfare and teach virtue, the poor would no longer need to be dependent upon government.  The bankrupt socialist government of the world need not adopt austerity policies that cut off the poor. Instead, religions need to perform their heavenly mandated purpose.

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (New Testament, James 1:27)

Out of all the institution in the world; out of all the social, political or philosophical theories ever devised; only the eternal covenants of the Holy Temple will bring about the end to poverty, the end of racial division, the end of war, and the world peace that we all are hoping, praying and striving for.  Evangelicals love to say "Christ is the answer".  This is correct but not specific enough.  Scripture teaches that the atoning grace of Jesus Christ is accepted, administered, and applied though the covenants of the Holy Temple.

The covenants and standards of Christ's Holy Temple are not divisive.  All are alike unto God and all are invited into Gods presence based upon our willingness to repent and make and keep God's covenants.  The only thing that divides the wicked from God's presence is their choice to refuse God's help to restrain our naturally prideful, selfish, hedonistic, abusive, opportunistic and exploitive behavior.  

Temple Sanctification

Some people think the LDS Temple is wrong or even mean to exclude people from entrance based upon certain criteria of inward purity.  According to these critics, the OT Temple was exclusionary, but the NT church is supposed to be inclusive.  All of us are sinful and we all fall short of the glory of God. So, if we all fall short and rely upon the grace of Jesus Christ the same, why have arbitrary criteria for entrance into theTemple and approaching the thrown of God?  Didn't Christ tear down the veil of the Temple?  Shouldn't it be enough to confess Christ alone without any expectations; No repentance, no inward purity, no fruits, no works?

Jesus accepts us how and where we are, and through His grace empowers our sanctification if we accept Him. The sanctification is necessary to enter into the presence of the Father.  Because while God the Son, mercifully, spends time with publicans and sinners (you and me), God the Father dwells in perfection.  All of us will eventually have to reach that state of perfection to enjoy the fellowship of the Father, which we cannot reach in this life but only after the resurrection.

But, while the resurrection will do away with the natural man, it will not make us a different person. Consequently, many may not choose to dwell in the presence of God because for whatever reason, they really don't like the same music or the same activities. They will not find joy in it.  There are mansions in heaven for all according to our desires.  Again, our attitudes may mean that some may not want to live there. Accordingly, we need to begin, at least, to cultivate the right attitude.  Some basic righteous works manifest this right attitude so we are not deluding ourselves.

You do NOT need to be perfect to enter into the LDS Temple, but you do have to live up to a standard given in scripture that demonstrates the fruit of faith in Christ.  Hopefully, as you continue in spiritual service to Christ, the power and grace of sanctification, in us, is magnified.  Through this magnified grace in the Temple, we are better filled with His spirit which transforms, purifies, and refines our attitudes, continence and affections so that when he appears, we will "love His appearing".

In the LDS Temple you covenant to live the commandments of obedience, sacrifice, chastity and consecration.  Does it really make sense to make promises that you are not intending to keep?

Why would God require such commitments?  Because it will take servants with a greater spiritual cleanliness (not perfection) to build His kingdom and eventually to enter into the presence of the Father.  Someone who makes greater use of Christ's grace.

Also, for those who attend the temple can testify. God's spirit is there, and it works in our lives.  So, why criticize what works? Who wouldn't want greater sanctification?  Who would not wish to make greater use of Christ's grace in their life?

However, when it comes to being exclusionary, with regard to the LDS Temple; are the LDS just being mean by making people believe they cannot with full confidence approach the thrown of God as they are? Was Paul being mean when he said the following?

For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.  Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. (New Testament, Ephesians 5:5-7)

But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. .... But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person. (New Testament, 1 Corinthians, 5:11;13)

Is Paul is being exclusionary or just making vain lists?

Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord. (Old Testament, Isaiah 52:11)

Is there a higher standard of inward purity for Gods servants who serve to build His kingdom just like the Priests who served in the OT Temple had to satisfy higher standards of outward purity?

And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. (Old Testament, Malachi, Malachi 3:3)

When Christ will "suddenly" come to His temple in the latter-days,  Malachi tells us the purpose of the temple is to sanctify.  Paul in Hebrews reminds us that the OT temple and the Levitical priesthood did not sanctify or perfect because it was primarily concerned with outward purity.  But the NT Temple is concerned with inward purity.

And the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore. (Old Testament, Ezekiel, Ezekiel 37:28)

Again, Ezekiel teaches that the Latter-day Temple will sanctify and purify Israel.  This is a significant purpose of the Latter-day temple because the purpose of OT temple was not to sanctify but point to our need of a Savior and the need of inward sanctification and holiness.

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.  And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Old Testament, Isaiah, Isaiah 2:2-4)

Isaiah also teaches us the purpose of the Latter-day temple and its result on the world.  Learning of Gods ways and even necessary judgement and rebuke will bring peace on Earth.  Is Isaiah being mean when he takes about judging nations and rebuking peoples? Is Isaiah talking about a different God?

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. (New Testament, Revelation, Revelation 3:19-21)

Nope! John in revelations also tells us that there still is a place in Christ's gospel for rebuke and chastening and admonishes the Saints to repent and be zealous.  John even admonishes the Saints to beware not to be Lukewarm or God would spew them out of His mouth.  While there is a place for the pleasing word of God, there is also a place for reproof. 

In conclusion, Jesus Christ did not tear down the veil of the temple.  Instead, the Bible says a that a partition was made. And through the sanctifying grace of Christ, mankind can inwardly purify ourselves and approach the thrown of God and even sit in Christ's thrown with Him.  It is not the purity standards of Christ's Holy House that are being exclusive or trying to be mean. While the OT Temple did segregate people, the Latter-day temple invites all to enter into Gods presence, black and white, bond and free, male and female, both Jew and Gentile.  It is only through our choosen disobedience that we exclude ourselves.