Monday, May 19, 2014

Covenants and Vegetables

Why are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints so focused on ordinances and covenants? Our critics claim that our works-centered and repentance-focused gospel somehow detracts from whay they claim should be a more grace-focused and Christ-alone-focued gospel. However, the truth is that LDS ordinances and covenants do not take our eyes off Christ, but more firmly fix our eyes upon Him.

Jesus Christ gave us ordinances and sacraments. The New Testament discribes 3 outward performances that were given by Jesus Christ in the New Testament that established and manifested a person's discipleship in Christ.  First, all Christians were to enter the Christian Church by receiving the ordinance of baptism by immersion followed the receiving of the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands . (Acts 19:2-6)  Third, Christians met together weekly to partake of the Lord's Supper in rememberance of Christ's life, death, sacrifice and resurrection. (Matt 26:26-28)

Critics contend that ordinance-receiving, covenant and commandment keeping shifts our focus away from Christ and onto ourselves. Critics claim that LDS are more focused on how we can save ourselves through our own works without Christ than what they say should be an extreme hyper-grace and Christ-alone gospel.

But again anyone who has seriously read the New Testament should understand that Christ was himself baptized as an example and gave us the Lord's Supper. Also that a big part of believing is doing. Christ taught, "Why call me Lord, and do not what I say?"

Why did Christ give ordinances? God knows us.  He created us.  God designed mankind with the ability to forget.  Forgetting is absolutely essential attribute for our mental wellness.  In life, bad stuff happens and forgetting is a necessary coping mechanism. Some people suffer from disordered forgettin.  One such disorder of forgetting is called PTSD. Additionally, if women couldn't forget, I bet we'd all have grown up as only children without younger siblings.  Accordingly, Christ has given us ordinances which are designed through action, symbolism and repitition to help us remember.  When our children make mistakes, don't we ask them "What were you thinking?"   They usually respond: 1. they weren't, or 2. they simply forgot.  

God also knows that the natural man is weak. Humans like any animal have appetites and passions. However, humans are much more than a collection of instincts. Humans can reason and even when we are hungry we can choose to fast.  When we are offended, we can choose to forgive.  When we are afraid, we can choose to step forward and do our duty.

If Human's were to be controlled by our animalistic natures alone, suffering and misery would be the result.  Satan's doctrine is "do as you will".  Like Korihor reveals in the Book of Mormon, in Satan's world there is no right and wrong but everyone is to fair according to the management of the creature and prosper  according to his strength, genius, cunning, deception, and ruthlessness. According to Social Darwinism, a strong man would be a benefit for the fitness, advancement, and survival of the species.  

According to this doctrine, if you desire something, the universe put that desire in your heart, so then you must have it or you put yourself at odds with the universe.  However, the reality is that in such a pyramid system there could only be one person who could ever hope to have everything he wanted. If two people wanted the same thing then they would have to kill each other over it.

In Christ's kingdom, the gospel is not just about confessing Christ as Lord alone but also following and living the doctrines that He taught. 

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. (New Testament, James, James 2:19)

Instead of living to do our own will, Christ taught us to live with an eye single to the glory of God, to give our lives in the service of God, do the will of our Father in Heaven.  Instead up of following after hedonism and materialism, Christ taught that there is spiritual strength in self-restraint.  Satan teaches a philosophy to fear death and until then eat, drink, and be merry because "you only live once".  Christ teaches an eternal perspective that this life is a test to see if we really love God and to see if we will seek to do His will while on Earth.  We are to lay up in store treasure in heaven through self-less service; even giving our own lives and all we possess to His cause and His kingdom.

Mankind is to follow the golden rule and to treat anothers how we would want to be treated.  The golden rule is the foundation of the commandments and is manifest in Christ's call to both render relief to the fatherless and the widow as well as keeping ourselves unspotted from the world.

God knows that the natural man has natural tendencies. We don't want to keep the commandment any more than a child wants to eat his vegetables.  Eating fresh vegetables are essential to good physical health just like keeping the commandments are essential to good spiritual health.  However, just because  vegetables are essential doesn't mean a child or adult will naturally like their taste.  And just as a child can learn to eat his vegetables, we must also train ourselves and acquire a taste for keeping the commandments of God.

This is what the covenants and ordinances of Baptism, and the Holy Temple are all about.  To be worthy to be baptized and then to go to the LDS Temple an individual must we first willing to keep the commamdments of God amd then demonstrate that he is living them according to 1 Cor 5:11.  You don't have to be perfect to become a Latter-day Saint, but God has established a standard that creates a community of safety and peace.

What is the purpose of the Holy Temple? I often ask people what they believe the temple is all about? I then ask them if they think their neighborhood is anything like heaven.  They have so far answered with a resounding-- No!  The purpose of the LDS Temple is to give us a glimpse of what heaven will feel like.  In addition to the beautiful and inspiring architecture and decore and the going's on inside, temple patron's gain this vision of heaven by living up to the commandments they have covenanted to obey.  The ritual and symbolism and everything else is ment to internalize these principles and commandments and ingrain them into us until we eventually lose any desire for sin. Do you want to feel heaven in your heart? The quickest way is to repent and live the commandmets.  Conversely, if youwant  to feel what the other place feels like just try breaking a commandment and you will if not immediately, eventually arrive at the resulting heartache, guilt, remorse, and regret.

The Kingdom of God and the Holy Temple is the stone Daniel was talking about that would, in the Last Days, be cut out of the mountain without hands and itself become a great mountain and fill the whole Earth.  People living the commandments of God is how God will bring heaven on Earth beginning with ourselves and our personal commitment to be honest, kind, sexually pure, and to obstain from any type of addicting drugs, alcohol or other substances abused recreationally.  

The threats to our freedom, the US Constitution, and the survival of our nation have nothing whatever to do with radical Islam or Socialism or Communism or even Globalism.  The real threat to freedom is Satan and we allow him power to overcome us when we break the commandments of God through sexual immorality, and debauchery.  Only a return to vitue can save us.  Not even a spiritual revival but a revival of individuals committing themselves to living laws of Christian service and self-restraint. 

There is so much confusion, destraction and deception out in the world about how we can improve our lives and improve our world.  Our species will not be advanced by global government or evironmental policies but only by keeping the commandments of God.  We must beware not to make war, or government or environmental policies our gods.  These cannot and will not bring the safety, nor prosperity we desire.  

Remember when the ancients worshipped their false gods, it's not the wooden, stone or golden idols themselves that these people wanted to appease.  These idols were simply  anthropomorphic representations of the ideas of peace, safety, security, fertility, and prosperity. It was prosperity the ancients wanted and their false priests continually told them they could only have that prosperity by shedding blood, going to war, and committing religion-endorsed sin or observe some counterfeit system of morality.

I feel so blessed to have been choosen by God, ordained and set apart in His Holy Priesthood. It is my privilege to do the will of my Father in Heaven, render service to my fellow man, and administer these covenants and ordinances.  I sometimes think about stocks I could have invested in or certain games I could have wasted time mastering.  Wouldn't it be great to have invested in Google or Apple or Bitcoin?  Wouldn't it be great to be a scratch golfer, or international chress grandmaster, or esports professional gamer? However, when it comes down to it, I remind myself that I am invested in the most important and most enduring enterprise which will bring an endless and eternal return.

This is what the Book of Mormon is all about.  The major message of the Book of Mormon is the covenant God makes with Lehi and his descendants was simply: "inasmuch as they would keep the commandments of God, they would prosper in the land , and inasmuch as they would not keep the commandments, they would be be cut off from His presence" and be left to themselves, to fend for themselves according to their own strength before their enemies who were much more ruthless. 

If we as a nation forsake the commandments of God, we will likewise be forsaken and left to fend for ourselves before our enemies.   This is why the Book of Mormon is the word of God like the Bible.  The Book of Mormon testifies with the Bible that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Holy Messiah. And also, that we can only hope to be saved by a return to virtue, traditional family values, and keeping the commandments of God.  Satan would never teach this lesson.

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