Friday, February 20, 2015

Elder Holland: Be Not Afraid, Only Believe

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints addresses church education system religious educators at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Feburary 5, 2015. CES educators include LDS Seminary and Institute teachers. 

The topic of the talk was about keeping the faith, optimism, and testimony of the Church even in troubled times. I think eveyone feels this terrible sense that things are unraveling in the world. Western Culture is economically, politicly, and morally bankrupt.  When it comes to issues of marriage and having a family, we must not "take counsel from our fears".  Babylon may fall, but in this last dispensation, Zion will remain standing strong and emerge victorious.  "No weapon formed against us will prosper".  Elder Holland also shares the quote to "not get stuck in the thick of thin matters."

Elder Holland says:

"With uncompromised confidence in God, I ask you to summon full confidence in yourselves and build full confidence in your students by teaching with conviction and optimism that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the most certain, the most secure, the most reliable, and the most rewarding truth on earth and in heaven, in time and in eternity. I ask you to teach that nothing—not anything, not anyone, not any influence—will keep this Church from fulfilling its mission and realizing its destiny set from before the foundation of the world. Ours is that fail-safe, inexorable, indestructible dispensation of the fulness of the gospel. Our youth have no need to be afraid or tentative about themselves or about their future. What they do need to do is believe and to rise up to make the most of the remarkable day in which we live...

The momentum that began in a grove of trees in upstate New York two centuries ago will continue to roll forth, unabated and undeniable—Daniel’s stone cut out of the mountain without hands. That scriptural kingdom will be triumphant, and it will prevail. Unlike every other era before us, this dispensation will not experience an institutional apostasy; it will not see a loss of priesthood keys; it will not suffer a cessation of revelation from the voice of Almighty God. Individuals will apostatize, they may turn a deaf ear to heaven, but never again will the dispensation collectively do so. What a secure thought that is! What a day in which to live! What a way to cut through fear or faintheartedness....

No wonder the Prophet Joseph taught that every prophet, priest, and king in every age “looked forward with joyful anticipation to the day in which we live; and fired with heavenly and joyful anticipations they have sung and written and prophesied of this our day; … we are the favored people that God has made choice of to bring about the Latter-day glory.”

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Test and Promise of Tithing

"God requires one-tenth of our increase to be put into His storehouse; and this is given as a standing law to all of the Stakes of Zion.  By this principle (tithing) the loyalty of the people of this Church shall be put to the test. By this principle it shall be known who is for the kingdom of God and who is against it. By this principle it shall be seen whose hearts are set on doing the will of God and keeping his commandments, thereby sanctifying the land of Zion unto God, and who are opposed to this principle and have cut themselves off from the blessings of Zion. There is a great deal of importance connected with this principle, for by it it shall be known whether we are faithful or unfaithful. In this respect it is as essential as faith in God, as repentance of sin, as baptism for the remission of sin, or as the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The law of tithing is a test by which the people as individuals shall be proved. Any man who fails to observe this principle shall be known as a man who is indifferent to the welfare of Zion, who neglects his duty as a member of the Church, and who does nothing toward the accomplishment of the temporal advancement of the kingdom of God. He contributes nothing, either, toward spreading the gospel to the nations of the earth, and he neglects to do that which would entitle him to receive the blessings and ordinances of the gospel. . . 

I have said, and I will repeat it here, that a man or woman who will always pay his or her tithing will never apostatize. It does not make any difference how small or how large it may be; it is a law of the Lord; it is a source of revenue for the Church; it is God’s requirement, and He has said that those who will not observe it are not worthy of an inheritance in Zion. No man will ever apostatize so long as he will pay his tithing. It is reasonable. Why? Because as long as he has faith to pay his tithing he has faith in the Church and in the principles of the Gospel, and there is some good in him, and there is some light in him. As long as he will do this the tempter will not overcome him and will not lead him astray."

-- TPC: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 31.

Malachi 3: 8-10 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.  Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Matt 6:24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Doctrine and Covenants 82:10 I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.

Doctrine and Covenants 82:20-21 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Hopewell - Nephite Connection

Let them build up a city unto my name upon the land opposite the city of Nauvoo, and let the name of Zarahemla be named upon it. (Doctrine and Covenants, Doctrine and Covenants, D&C 125)

I was watching several lectures on the Book of Mormon by Wayne May which discussed ancient american archeology and genetic migration and was just blown away. I, like Brother May, have always agreed with Hugh Nibley and Joseph Smith that the United States of America was the place of the Nephites and the Great Lakes Native American's were the descendants of the Book of Mormon people (Mitchondrial DNA Haplogroup X2a strongly supports this).  I also believe the Hopewell or "mound builders" were the Nephites, but I never could put all the geography together in my mind until seeing Wayne May's presentation.  

It is like the scales have fallen away from my eyes. The geography is so clear now but had always been right there before me.  Why couldn't I had seen it before?  I remember looking at limited maps of the Great Lakes region and thinking, "that is the place of Joseph Smith's Comorah, but I can't see how all the events of the book of Mormon fit into that small "limited" geographical area."  Now that I recognize the Book of Mormon lands as the Whole Eastern US, It all makes sense to me for the first time.

Book of Mormon archeologists had done a great job retracing Lehi's family departure from Jerusalem and their travels through the desolate Arabian pennisula finally to arrive at a lush oasis called Bountiful on the coasts of the Eastern (Indian) Ocean.  Amazingly, there is a small strip of green on the coast of Oman exactly where the Book of Mormon predicts it to be located in the Dohfar region of Oman. This small oasis of lush green, fruit and timber fed by moisture-rich monsoon winds coming up off the horn of Somalia. There is not another place like this in all of the Arabian Penninsula-- a miraculous scriptural bullseye.

However, when it came to the Nephites in America, I remember hearing that we had lost track of of Nephites in America. We couldn't pinpoint the area of the Nephite's first landing and the Great Nephite Cities of Zarahemla and Bountiful and the Great River Sidon.  

I used to rationalize this conundrum by  telling myself that God would not reveal to us the location of Zarahemla because He wanted us to trust in the words of the prophets and in the Holy Ghost and not in archaeologists and artifacts.  However, Wayne also makes a valid point that the spirit and the body, light and truth, science and religion go together and bring a fullness of joy.

It turns out that my current home of Augusta, Georgia may be very near to the Nephites land of Lehi's first inheritance in the Promised Land. The Nephites would have left the coasts of Oman and ocean currents would have taken them around the Cape of Africa and then up to the Gulf of Mexico or Georgia Coast.  It turns out that the City of Savannah, GA lies at exactly the same latitude as Jerusalem.  

However, Nephi wouldn't have spent much time in thecSavannah, Augusta Jacksonville or Tallahassee Areas.  According to the Book of Mormon, Nephi, Sam, Jacob, Joseph, Zoram and their families seperated themselves from Laman and Lemuel and traveled North to the Land of Nephi.  The Nephites would spend 400 years in the Land of Nephi which Wayne May suggests would have been the North Georgia mountains and Tennesee Valley.  The Nephites would have followed either the Chattahoochee or the Savannah Rivers to North Georgia. 

One clue that supports the North Georgia, Tennessee area as the Land of Nephi is that Nephi said that he had found an abundance of gold.  The city of Dahlonega, GA was the location of the second American gold rush in 1829.  Also, it is important to realize that the Nephites would have likely used rivers as their transportation.  Also it is evident from the immediate and continual raids, and war with the Lamanites, that the Lamanites knew which direction they had gone off in and easily followed them.

After 400 years in the Land of Nephi, the Nephites found themselves surrounded by the Lamanites and were forced to move on.  Although the Nephites had discovered the Gulf of Mexico, it doesn't seem like they knew of what is later called the River Sidon or the Mississippi River.however they would've followed the Mississippi drainage which begins in the North Georgia mountains and would have headed further notth and west until they arrived at the Great River Sidon and the City of Zarahemla which was populated by the people of Mulek and is located on the Mississippi river across from the city of Nauvoo. 

All the LDS temples faced East except for one. The Nauvoo temple is the only LDS temple which faces west. Directly across the river from the Nauvoo temple is a site that has been identified which may be the site of the temple at Zarahemla.  The temple had been pointing us to Zarahemla all this time.  Furthermore, radar suggests the ancient temple may be still preserved at the site having been sunk by liquifaction during a great New Madrid Earthquake that occured in Americs at the time of Jesus Christ's death. 

The Mesoamerican areas just don't fit the details of the Book of Mormon.  The book of Mormon people were agrarian, and they built their homes and their churches in their temples out of wood and they built defensive walls around their city out of earth and timber.  The Nephites never use cut stone like the Inca or Maya or Aztecs.  The Nephites mentioned seasons, migrating wild beasts (buffalo), tornadoes, Lamanites living in tents, the several "seas that divide the land" (Great Lakes) and many other details that can only fit the North Anerican geography.

Knowing the location of Zarahemla, we can identify the Land of Bountiful as being located in the Ohio River Valley and the Land of Desolation as the Upstate New York where the golden plates were discovered at the Hill Camorah. 

Now, what is with all the Hopewell burial mounds?  The Book of Mormon tells of the people that preceeded the Nephites in America known as the Jaredites.  Archeologists call them the Adena. The Adena were a powerful and mighty people.  They were great metallurgists and used powerful Mastadons to do most of the earth moving. It is believed that the Jaredites were darker skinned, very tall at 7-8 ft , and very powerful.  

However, the Book of Mormon recounts a terrible war of extermination that may have also resulted in the extermination not only of the Jaredites themselves but of the American horse and elephant. The Mulekites and Nephites likely settled in abandoned Adena cites.  The Nephites likely adopted the "pagan" custom of burial mound building from the Mulekites who picked up the practice from the many thousands of Adena/Jaredite burial mounds.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Purpose of Adversity

"And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions." (Book of Mormon, Mosiah 24:14)

God doesn't promise is a problem-free life. He promises us that He will visit us in our affliction and that His Holy Spirit can be our constant companion.  

1. Not all adversity is because of our own sins, weaknesses and mistakes; but some are.  
2. Other adversity comes from the sins, weaknesses amd mistakes of others.
3. But much adversity is not necessarily because of sin but just a product of mortality. The Lord causeth it to rain upon the just and the unjust. But adversity is not without purpose. 
4. We must know the bitter to appreciate the sweet. If we lived in Hawaii and it was always 70 degrees, we may not appreciate the good weather or even have a concept of temperature if the temperature never changed.
5. We cannot exhibit/develop Christ-like attributes without adversity. You cannot be patient and longsuffering unless you have something to be patient about or something to suffer.
6. In heaven everything was happy and perfect. God wants us to prove it to ourselves that we are not just fair-weather fans. Will we still love God like Job even when there is bad weather.
7. God gives us weaknesses and adversity to keep us close to Him, so that we will turn to Him and He promises to make those weaknesses strengths.
8. Also, like Christ, as we pass through sorrow we can better understand and mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of confort.

Life is like being lowered into a well. We are a bucket and have to be lowered into the well to be filled with water (spirit). Then the Lord promises to draw us back out of the well unto himself. Our responsibility as the bucket is to make sure we are filled with water when the Lord comes to draw us back up out of the well unto Himself.

When the Jaredites were commanded to build barges to the Promises Land, the Lord helped them solve problems of having enough light and air to breath. But He did warn them that in their journey that there would be a furious wind and waves that would crash upon them and even bury them in the ocean. but that the purpose of the wind and the waves was to blow them towards the Promised Land. So it is with adversity in our own lives.

And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. (Old Testament, Job 1:21)

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; (New Testament, Romans, Romans 5:3)

For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. (New Testament, 2 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 1:5)