Thursday, November 20, 2014

Abraham: Father, Worker, Soldier, Priest

I was recently talking with a Jewish friend about the LDS Church's lay ministry.  I said, I thought it must be difficult for religious priests who have never been married or had a family to counsel others.  We also talked about the conflict of interest that arises when you have a duty to call those who pay your salary to repentance.

My Jewish friend shared an experience he had with an out-of-touch Rabbi in New York who was giving a Yom Kippur sermon. The Rabbi had said something like, 'if there is any Jew not willing to devote the first 25 years of his life to Torah study, you should gave nothing to do with them.' My friend said after hearing that he walked out.

That conversation reminded me of the symbolism of the fleur-de-lis. Anciently, the 3-petal lily represented a compartmentalization and division of labor in society. The 3 divisions were: those who work, those who fight, and those who pray. This adaptation of the symbol teaches a damaging falsehood that allows evil better control over society.  As citizens, we just do our job with blinders on and trust that the others are doing theirs without really understanding whats going on.  We can never see the big picture of where evil is leading us because we see only our narrow view.

The thoughts on the problem with compartmentalization reminded me of the example of Abraham. Abraham was both a father, worker, soldier, and priest unto the Most High God. Not only did Abraham raise a righteous family and work as a shepherd; when Lot went missing, Abraham raised an army and went to his rescue.  In addition, Abraham paid tithes and offered sacrifice and performed his duty to God.

These thoughts reminded me of the fleur-de-lis symbol and how it is used in scouting today.  Instead of representing the compartmentalization of society, the 3 petals bound together represent the 3 parts of the Scout Oath which are to do our duty to God, help others, and to obey the scout law.  This symbolism exactly matches the 3 Pillars of Judaism which are Torah (Law), The Divine Service (Duty to God), and Acts of Loving Kindness (Helping Others).

When I read the words of LDS leaders, I appreciate how All LDS leadership have worked and been very successful in one career or another. All have been righteous husbands and fathers, all have devoted their lives to the service of God.  Additionally, many of them have also been soldiers and have had military service. The same can said of LDS local leadership and membership. 

I think this rich life experience as well as a true testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ gives LDS leadership both general and local a clear vision of how things really are.  In addition to the correct priesthood authority, the life experience of LDS leadership helps them magnify their callings as prophets, seers and revelators; to see and teach us things as the really are and will be.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Three Pillars: Beersheva, Shechem, Hebron, Jerusalem

Jewish tradition says there are three places in the Old Testament where the Patriarchs purchased land which serve as the basis for Jewish claim to the Land of Israel. First is Sarah's Tomb in Hebron or the Tomb of the Patriarchs. Second is Jacob's Well and the Tomb of Joseph in Shechem. Third is the Ornan's Threshing Floor where King David purchased land for the construction of the Holy Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. Mount Moriah is the location were Abraham bound and was commanded to offer his son Isaac.

Jewish tradition says that these 3 lications: Shechem, Jerusalem, and Hebron represent 3 principles upon which the universe exists namely Torah (restraint), the Divine Service (service to God), and Acts of Loving Kindness (service to man).  Shechem which was the priestly city given to Joshua, was the place where the Israelites entered into a covenant with God at the bases of Mount Gerizim and Ebal.  Hebron was the priestly city given to Caleb which represents acts of loving kindness or charity in that Abraham who is buried there was known as a friend to God.  Ornan's Threahing Floor is the sight of the Ancient Holy Temple and was the place were the divine service was performed.

Interesting that all these 3 locations the previous owners are named numerous times and the exact amount of the purchase price is specified. Sarah's Tomb was purchases for four hundred shekels of silver from Ephron the Hittite. Ephron's name is given 8 times in the chapter associated with the transaction and 4 more times later for a total of 12.  The Theshingfloor of Ornan was purchased for six hundred sheckles of gold.  Ornan's name is given 11 times in 1 Chro 21 and a 12th time in 2 Chro 3. Jacob's Well was purchased for "100 pieces of money" from Hamor the Hivite, the father of Sheckem, in Gen 33. Hamor's name is given 11 times in Gen 33-34 and a 12th time in Joshua 24:32.

There is a forth location where the Patriarchs purchased land and that is at Beershebah where Abraham dug a well and purchased the land and water rights from Abimelech, King of Gerar and the Philistines, for 7 sheep (ewes) and oxen.  Abimelech's name is also mentioned 17 times in the passage (Gen 20-21) and 7 more times in Gen 26.  Abimelech name is given 24 times in total.

1. Hebron: Sarah's Tomb/ Tomb of the Patriarchs, Purchased by Abraham from Ephron the Hittite, the son of Zohar, for 400 pieces of silver. (Gen:23)

2. Shechem: Jacob's Well/Joseph's Tomb, purchased by Jacob from Hamor the Hivite, the Father of Shechem, for 100 pieces of money. (Gen:33)

3. Jerusalem: Ornan's Treshingfloor, purchased by King David from Ornam the Jebusite for 600 sheckles of gold. (1 Chron 21)

4. Beersheba: Abraham's Well, purchased by Abraham from Abimelech, King of Gerar and the Philistines, for 7 ewes and other sheep and oxen. (Gen:21)

Other. Bethel: Burial location of Deborah (Gen 35). Bethlehem: Tomb of Rachel (Gen 35)

Thinking about the 3 Pillars of Judaism. I don't think we can forget about Beersheva as a pillar.  Beersheva is the place where Abraham first purchased land from the king of Gerar.  The Land was desolate and undesirable but blossomed as a rose after Abraham had dug a well, irrigated, and planted a grove of trees.  Abraham built an oasis out of the desert.  Here in Beersheva was the birthplace of Isaac and the beginning of the Family of Abraham. If I had to assign a principle to Beersheva, I think Beersheva represents the principle of work and the role of fatherhood and family.

The German Haifa Cemetary is the burial location of a couple of LDS Missionaries and German immigrant converts who died and were buried in Israel prior to Israel becoming a state. While these grave do show an LDS presence in Israel prior to 1948, they were NOT used as a basis for the LDS Church purchasing of land in Israel for the BYU Jerusalem Center or to receive official state recognition.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

President Eyring Visits the Vatican

President Eyring met with Pope Francis and spoke at a meeting on the family.  I listened to President Eyring's address with my family during dinner and had the following thoughts.

First, President Eyring emphasized how he was a first-hand witness of how to have a happy family.  This is significant in that the Catholic Church does not allow their priests to marry.  I think the Catholic Church could probably better defend marriage if their clegy was also married.

President Eyring related how he first met l his wife. He recounted how the Spirit of the Lord came with great power telling him in his mind and heart that if he were to marry her, he would become all the good things he wished for himself and that God desired for him.  I had the exact same spiritual impression when I met and was dating my wife Ruth. This teaching is significant testifying that marriage between man and woman is ordained of God and inspired by the Holy Ghost.

President Eyring then told the group about LDS sealing in the LDS Temple that LDS couples and families are promised through living faithful that they will enjoy the same sociality that they have built here in life in the next life. Other Christian religions teach that marriage and family ends at death.

Next, President Eyring called for a Renaissance of the Family.  He told the group that the number one factor that seperated happy from unhappy families was unselfishness.  If a couple puts each other first, their differences will serve to complement one another.  If the couple is selfish, the natural differences between men and women will be divisive.

President Eyring then read from the "Proclaimation to the World". After, he said that this wasn't just a matter of logic but when there is temptation to be unfaithful you have to have to soften hearts.  A husband has to have a heart of committment and loyalty to his wife and family.  But also, turning families around involves doing. 

President Eyring said there were 1 million LDS Families in America and more in Mexico and Brazil that pray together daily, read scriptures together and have weekly family devotionals.  These practices serve to unite families and give children hope that family life will bring them great happiness and satisfaction.  In one or two generations great exponential progress can be made.  On the other hand, increasing numbers of young people are loosing faith in marriage.

Finally, President Eyring spoke with authority and promised that families that applied these principles would enjoy greater happiness. President Eyring closed his remarks in the name of Jesus Christ who he said he serves and who he is a witness.  

I really enjoyed President Eyrings remarks.  President Eyring didn't speak as a scientist about research results or trends or what could be expected or projected.  President Eyring spoke as a prophet of God and not a social scientist.  Strengthening families doesn't require a scientific study or calling a commission to study the problem.  The problems are clear and the solutions have been revealed through prophets and known since the first recorded family.

Friday, November 14, 2014

No Man Hath Seen God

Many OT prophets claimed to speak with God face-to-face.  New Testament Apostles John and Paul say that "no man hath seen God" except through Jesus Christ.  Many mainstream Evangelicals interpret this to mean that God cannot be seen and has never been seen.  Yet the disciple Stephen, Joseph Smith and John the Revelator all clearly tell us that they received a vision of both God the Father and God the Son.  So how are we to understand John 1:18?

think many of the prophets and apostles like Adam (after the fall), Stephen, John, Joseph Smith, who claimed to have seen God the Father in fact saw the "person" of Heavenly Father.  But thinking of the temple, I think it may be that the face of Heavenly Father was still veiled in glory.  This veil of glory would continue until man is perfected. This would explain all the "no one has seen" vs. "has seen" scriptures and the emphasis that Christ is the express image of the Father.  In any event, the important point here is none of the prophets have seen any of it without first receiving the Holy Ghost and bearing witness of the Son of God.

Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: (New Testament, Colossians 1:15)

Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; (New Testament, Hebrews 1:3)

And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God. (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 1:8)

Lehi sees the the face of the "One" or the Son but only "thinks he sees" the Father on his thrown.  There is a suggestion of glory in these cases veiling a clear view. Prophets are seeing the person of the Father but maybe not His face.

And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. (New Testament, Revelation, Revelation 4:2)

John says that God was like Jasper and a Sadine stone to look upon. Jasper was the first stone in the Breastplate of Aaron and Sardine was the last stone suggesting a combination of all colors, or white light or great glory.

But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, (New Testament, Acts 7:55)

Stephen emphasizes seeing the glory of the Father.  But those prophets who spoke with God "face-to-face" were referring to Jehovah (God the Son) and not Eloheim (God the Father).  Again, veil of glory or not, the overarching lesson here is that no one has seen the Father without first being quickened by the Holy Ghost and also bearing witness of the Son of God who is Jesus Christ.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Not One Will Be Lost

An online poster on a religion forum criticized the LDS teaching that Jesus Christ would never allow the LDS Prophet to lead the LDS Church astray.  This LDS teaching leads to the LDS exhortation to "Follow the Prophet".  This online poster suggested that the assurance that the LDS Prophet would never lead us astray was akin to Satan in the pre-moral existance falsely promising us that if we followed his plan vs. the plan of God, that not one soul of us would be lost.  

So, what about Satan's vs. the LDS assurance?  Are they the same?  Is giving an assurance wrong?  Where was the deception in Satan's plan? 

First, we need to understand that the LDS doctrine does not teach that the LDS prophet is inerrant.  The LDS prophet is a man and imperfect but can and does speak the will and word of Jesus Christ.  Every individual must still depend on prayer, scripture study, and our personal relationship with Christ and the power of the Holy Ghost.  

So, what is the difference berween Satan's and the LDS plan?  Satan never said he would never lead his followers astray.  Instead, Satan taught that not one soul would be lost. Satan taught that all we have to do is choose him one time and then there would no more agency and no more choices-- that matter. We would all make it back to heaven automatically. 

Agency is not having the choice between ice cream flavors. Agency is having a choice between sin and righteousness. Better said, in our present situation, Agency is having a choice for righteousness. We only have that choice to choose right, because we have rules from God. Without rules, there is no law and without law there is no sin or righteousness, no penalty and no reward.

LDS leaders teach that if we continually choose to follow their council that we will not be led astray. But we would always have the option with each decision to follow or not. With the plan of Christ, we continually have to exercize our agency. In Christ's plan we are continually given rules, commandments and directions and choices that matter. If there were no rules or law, there would be no sin or no punishment, and no reward.(2 Nephi 2)

The Satan (no agency) system is the Korihor (no rules, social darwinism) system. There is no agency because there are no rules. Korihor taught, "whatever a man did was no crime" and "every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength;"

The problem with the Satan system is not the assurance, although Satan gave a false assurance (if there are no rules, then there is no sin, and no penalty). The consequence is also that with no rules. there is no reward, and no exaltation. What Satan wanted was to use fear to rob us of our exaltation and steal the honor of God only for himself.  God, on the other hand, desires to share His glory and exalt all His children.

Agency is the ability to choose the right. Choosing wrong is our default (opposite in the garden of Eden). We can't choose right without rules. Rules give us a choice. Without rules we would just follow our appetites all the time. Following appetites makes us an animal.  On the other hand, keeping rules make us human.  Keeping God's rules makes us divine. Human are above animals because of our self-restaint. My stomach wants this, but I choose that.  Rules safeguard our freedom.  Without God's rules the powerful would be left unrestrained to deceive and enslave the weak without penalty and man would act without a hope of reward and exaltation.

No Agency = No Rules = No Sin = No Punishment = No Righteousness = No Reward = No Exaltation = No God. (2 Nephi 2:13)

Again, Satan made the promise that all would return to heaven with no reward by having no rules, denying agency. Christ promises that we will return with a reward if we follow His rules revealed through His prophets.