Friday, December 26, 2014

It's All About Me?

Bro. Boyd Baggett spoke at a BYU-Idaho devotional warning about our prevelant and pervasive "it's only about me" attitude.  We tell ourselves, "the customer is always right" and we are the costumer. The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches instead that those who lose their life in the service of God and service of others will find their life.  Self-centeredness drives away love and friendship.  When Lucifer offered to perform the atonement saying "surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor" it was apparant that Satan was only concerned his own honor and not our welfare.

Satan proposed a plan denying us our agency to choose by having us come to Earth with no rules.  Satan claimed if there are no rules "whatever a man did was no sin" then not one of us would be lost.  But the Book of Mormon teaches us that if there is no law, there is no wickedness, no righteousness, no punishment and no ultimately no reward.

Medicine has seen a manifestation of this "its all about me" phenomenon.  We hear in the media healthcare advertisements about "patient-centered care" and hospital systems have been paying millions of dollars trying to increase patient satisfaction.  A study done at UC-Davis showed that increasing patient satisfaction results in increased resource utilization, costs, admissions, morbidity and mortality.

The same "all about me" attitude can be seen in religion.  False religion and priestcraft that is "grace-centered" instead of "repentance-centered" is built around telling the people only what they want to hear and not necessarily what they need to hear.

I love the true gospel of Jesus Christ that is repentance-centered and that inspires me to improve every day and gives me numerous opportunities to serve others and be dedicated to the a cause higher than myself.

Monday, December 15, 2014

LDS Temple: Symbol of Freedom, Family, and Virtue

Many people in this world hope for world peace in for an end to poverty. However we disagree about the best way to go about this.  Tragically, some of our disagreements about bringing peace often bring differing sides into conflict. Some groups think education alone is the answer.  other organizations are dedicated to speading ideas of socialism or environmentalism. The LDS church on the other hand focuses on spreading the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

"The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ would take the slums out of people, and then they would take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature." 
- Pres. Ezra Taft Benson

But what is LDS understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  Some Christians spread the message of grace without repentance.  These preachers spread the popular falsehood that individuals somehow can find happiness in wickedness without repentance.  The true Gospel of Christ teaches that we must first receive the power to repent through Christ and then receive forgiveness after we have repented from and forsaken our sins.

The answer to poverty and suffering in this world and preserving constitutional government is not education alone, or income redistribution or even environmentalism.  Although there are merits in each of these causes.  The only hope we have at preserving freedom and creating a world of peace and prosperity is a return to virtue. 

Freedom, traditional family values, charity, chastity, and sobriety are the ideals that the LDS Church and the LDS Temple represent.  Why can't just anyone enter an Latter-Day Saint Temple after it has been dedicated?  Because, to merit enterance to a temple, an individual must first be living up to the standard of inward purity and sanctification that God has established with regard to His Holy House found in 1 Cor 5:11.  In the Lord's Temple, patrons make covenants to live lives of purity and virtue.  It doesn't make sense to enter the Temple when an individual is not serious about keeping the covenants of self-restraint that are given in the temple.

The secret to world peace and properity is a return to virtue.  Immorality before and outside of marriage results in illegitimacy and broken families which contributes to poverty.  Chemical dependence leads to greater mental and physical illness, decreased productivity and greater poverty.  Just like Rome, Western governments are instituting socialism and ursurping the responsibility of the Church, which is welfare and virtue (James 1:27).  Today, few western churches provide much welfare nor teach much virtue.  And just like Rome we may well see our own nations fractured as a morally and economically bankrupt empire is torn apart from within. 

Nevertheless, I am thankful for being blessed to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The LDS Church and the LDS Temple and the LDS members are standing for he cause of Jesus Christ.  We stand for Constitutional Government.  In fact, Joseph Smith taught again and again that the US Constitution was given by God.  For the LDS, the US Constitution is akin to scripture and part of our religion.  (Shame on Mitt Romney for never communicating this). The LDS stand for traditional family values, and for a return to virtue.  We invite all to stand with us.  Who is on the Lord's side who?  Like Moses, we have drawn our line in the sand and now is the time for us to show where we stand.

The LDS church his little stone cut out of the mountain without hands that is rolling fourth and growing bigger and gaining momentum until it will strike the great image described in Daniel 2.  That stone,  which is the kingdom of God already on the earth will become a great mountain (or temple), and the principles and covenants of the temple will fill the whole Earth.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Unity of the Faith: Parable of the Baseball Game

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is led by Jesus Christ via a prophet and 12 Apostles just like Bible times.  Christ tells us in modern scripture: "whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same."(D&C 1:38).   While the LDS prophet speaks the mind, will, and word of God, LDS leaders to do not claim to be infallible.  

The Lord uses imperfect men to lead His church. The same modern scripture that declares that the LDS Prophet speaks on behalf of God also talks about their weaknesses: "And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known" (D&C 1:25).  We are assured that our leaders will never lead us astray, but that doesn't mean they are perfect and don't ever make mistakes.

The LDS Church has been recently addressing difficult issues from its past regarding polygamy and priesthood.  There is nothing new here. LDS leaders are continually asked about these issues.  When the revelation on priesthood was received in 1978, Elder McConkie said at the time "Forget what I or Brigham Young or anyone else has said which is contrary to the current light and knowledge we have now received. We spoke without understanding." Elder McConkie frankly admitted and apologized for his mistake. While the priesthood prohibition was a temporary necessity, the reasons Elder  McConkie gave to defend the policy were admittedly mistaken. 

In spite of the weakness of our leaders, it is a shame when any LDS member loses faith and abandons the Church, their covenants, and their faith over these issues.   The LDS Prophet is like the pitcher on a baseball team.  All the Church membership make up the rest of the team.  Just because the pitcher throws a few balls or even a wild pitch, doesn't mean we should throw down our glove, storm off the field, and abandon the team over it.  Even in spite of a few wild pitches and a handful of balls mixed with strikes, the pitcher can still be throwing a perfect game.  And so it is with our LDS leaders. Also, we should remember that it is not our job to be calling balls and strikes but to play our position.

Another example of what I am talking about is found in the Old Testament.  Israel was wondering in the desert and needed water. Moses was commanded to strike the rock.  Moses struck the rock twice, which was a mistake. But in spite of Moses' weakness, the water still flowed.  We have covenanted and God expects us to sustain our leaders even in their weakness.  And, like Moses, we can have faith, hope and an assurance that notwithstanding the weakness of our leaders, the water will still flow.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Faith: Desire to Know and Obey the Will of God

I work in emergency medicine and often interact with families dealing with end-of-life issues.  Sometimes a patient will come to the hospital in the process of dying.  The process of dying may be delayed temporarily by use of a mechanical ventillator and other medicines and technologies.  Sometimes family members of the dying patient may be reluctant to allow the natural process of dying to finish its course and withdraw care because they see it as giving up and exhibiting a lack of faith.  In a few cases family members have expeessed a well-meaning but misunderstood definition of faith by telling me that "if I can just believe enough, God will heal them".

One way Satan has erroded faith in the world is to change the definition of words. Even the definition of faith has been altered.  While the truth of God sits squarely in the middle, Satan seeks to divert us to one extreme or the other.

When it comes to the modern misunderstanding of faith, this essential concept has taken on two extreme and incorrect characterizations. The first mischaracterization of faith is "blind obedience".  According to this  extreme, the believer may ask questions but shouldn't expect any satisfying answers. The faithful are completely submissive and dependent on church authority. In a way, this kind of faith is more of a spiritual Ophelia Complex (see Hamlet). 

The second extreme, faith is ill-defined as our strength of will. If we just believe in or desire something hard enough then our desire and strength of will can make it happen.  The tendency of mankind to stray to the extremes was also taught by Aristotle in his concept of the "Golden Mean."

The true definition of faith has nothing to do with being blind or satisfying our own will.  The true definition of faith is a desire to know and be obedient to God's will even if we do not yet understand the reasons.  Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge but it "the substace of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen."

Reason follows revelation and believing is seeing.  Both an atheist and a creationist can look at the beauty of creation and the calibration of the Universe and come to different conclusions about who is responsible.  The atheist's opinions will never change until they experience God for themselves.  Only after a person has had a personal experience with God, will they then be able to see and interpret the data in a new light.  They will interpret the world through the lens of a testimony of the reality of the existence of God.  Faith does not cast out reason. But with a knowlege of God, higher reasons and a higher reality appear.

True faith has nothing to do with the strength of our belief in ourselves or the force of our own will.  Our will, no matter how strong, cannot change the will or truth of God or coerces God to act according to our desires.  Instead, true faith is humility to subordinate and accept Gods will whatever it is. 

Furthermore, true faith is the desire and motivation to know and do the will of God even when we may not be given the reason at first.  God can reveal His will even before revealing the exact reason why.  Knowing Gods will before the reason This tests whether we love Him or not. In the pre-mortal existence, we lived with God and the reasons for everything were continually before us. Reason obliged many to believe. In this life, the will of God is revealed before the reason to seperate out the fair-weather fans from those truely love God and His truth.

The key to faith is to obey even when our knowlege of that principle or commandment is not perfect.  That is, like Adam in the Garden of Eden, he was commanded to offer sacrifice even before knowing why he was commanded to do it.  When Adam was asked why he offered sacrifice, Adam gave one of the greatest expressions of faith, "I know not save the Lord commanded me" (Moses 5:6).   Adam didn't require a reason before he obeyed.  Adam's faith was not blind either. It was enough to know that offering sacrifice was the will of God.  After the trial of Adam's faith, the reason was revealed.  Jesus Christ taught the same principle of faith and obedience: "if any man will do His will, he will know of the doctrine, whether it is of God or I speak of myself" (John 7:27).  

Recognizing that there is a God, even a desire to know the will of God changes everything about how we see and interpret the world around us.  People of faith do not ignore the data and the facts or deny reason.  Instead, believers interpret facts according to God's reasons, according to our knowlege of the will of God, and according to the potential eternal life and exaltation of all of God's children.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Joseph Smith's First Vision

Joseph Smith received a heavenly visitation by God the Father and Jesus Christ when Joseph was only 14 years old.  Joseph was much older when he recorded the event. Until his death, Joseph Smith recorded the events if the First Vision 9 times. 

A few critics of the LDS Church have at times questioned the several accounts claiming there are glaring discrepancies which put into doubt whether Joseph Smith received any heavenly manifestation .  However. Elden J Watson has compiled all the 9 accounts showing the great consistency between all the accounts.

The main criticism that critics make against these First Vision accounts is that in the first written account, Joseph Smith says he saw "the Lord". In all subsequent accounts Joseph clarifies that he saw 2 personages, both God the Father and God the Son. Critics say this proves Joseph is a "charlatan" and made it all up.

Critics are always going to find something to criticize. There will aways be reasons for and against belief. Atheists look at the same beauty of creation and calibrated universe and still deny the existence of God. "Haters are gonna hate".  But just because arguments can be made doesn't mean thise arguments are valid.

So how do believers explain the first account?  First, because I have prayed to God like Joseph Smith did and God has revealed to me that the First Vision is true.  With a witness and testimony of God as my foundation, I interpret the data with an "eye of faith".  Faith is not blind.  Faith is knowing the will and mind of God.  Having had the mind of God reveled, the facts can only then can be properly interpreted.  "believing is seeing" and "reason follows revelation". 

Joseph wrote the first account years after it happened but that is not the first time he told people about it.  In all the 9 accounts Joseph says he was immediately hated by any minister or pastor after telling them of his experience. Believers see that Joseph, in the first account, was trying to make a parallel between himself and Paul.  Paul the Apostle received a visitation from the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, and there is no reason why a latter-day prophet could not also receive a similar vision.

My favorite part in all of the First Vision  accounts is in the first account where Joseph tells us that following the First Vision, his heart was filled with love for many days.  For those who know the Lord, and understand the workings of the Holy Spirit, this glorious detail together with the Holy Ghost, powerfully reveals the truth of Joseph's words.

Critics use their argument to try and pursuade others that the First Vision account evolved over time from receiving a visitation from an angel, to seeing the Lord, and then to seeing 2 personages as Stephen did in the New Testament. While it makes for a crafty argument, it just is absolutely not true. 

The first recorded indirect reference to the First Vision is in a newspaper. "The Reflector," a local Palmyra newspaper reports; "four LDS missionaries (Oliver Cowdery, Orson Pratt, Peter Whitmer Jr. and Ziba Peterson) were publicly teaching that Joseph Smith had seen God "personally" and had received a commission from Him to preach true religion."  This independent reference proves that Joseph Smith receiving a vision by God was central to the LDS message from the very beginning.

Gold Bible, No. 4,” The Reflector (Palmyra, New York) 2, no. 13 (14 February 1831)

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 locations: 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.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

D&C 42:30: Covenant and Deed

"The Land Ordinance of 1785 finally implemented a standardized system of Federal land surveys that eased boundary conflicts. Using astronomical starting points, territory was divided into a 6-mile square called a township prior to settlement. The township was divided into 36 sections, each measuring 1 square mile or 640 acres each. Sale of public land was viewed as a means to generate revenue for the Government rather than as a way to encourage settlement. Initially, an individual was required to purchase a full section of land at the cost of $1 per acre for 640 acres. The investment needed to purchase these large plots and the massive amount of physical labor required to clear the land for agriculture were often insurmountable obstacles. By 1800, the minimum lot was halved to 320 acres, and settlers were allowed to pay in 4 installments, but prices remained fixed at $1.25 an acre until 1854."

To understand D&C 42:30 that required members with land to consecrate it to the bishop's storehouse you need to understand the Homestead Acts and Land Ordinance laws of the time. Prior to the civil war, if you were to purchase land from the federal government, you could only purchase it in huge alotments no less than 320 acres. Before the tractor, this plot of land was way too big for any one person to farm. The big plots of land did NOT favor settlement. So in the spirit of creating a city and settlement for the saints those saints who were awarded ajoining 320 or 640 acre land ordinances from the Federal Gov were commanded to consecrate the excess land to the Church for the purpose of making a settlement for all the saints who would be gathering to Zion.

This consecration of land was instead of having the few LDS land owners who had won the land grants from charging the church and the members perpetual rent to settle on the properties.  Similarly, neither the Church nor the bank owned all the land.  Each family was given an inheritance of land that they owned outright.  The emphasis here should more be about individual property rights and not land redistribution.

The reason I point this out is because some look to D&C 42 to understand God's law of consecration and they interpret these verses in terms of socialist-style income redistribution. I think this is incorrect.  The United Order recognized property rights, it satified both wants and needs, emphasized work and personal responsibility, fostered self-reliance, and was voluntary. I think when we see and practice the United Order it its true form and live with "all things common" (not "all things in common"), that we will all conclude, "why didn't we all do this earlier?"

Personal responsibility and self-reliance notwithstanding, we should not forget helping the poor and needy is still a sacred personal reaponsibility and part of true religion.

Reasons For and Against Belief

"For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (New Testament, Matthew 13:15)"

This passage of scripture seems to suggest that Christ taught in parables or a bit cryptically to purposely convince and convert some but not convert and convince others.  This scripture is used by Calvinist to justify the false doctrine of predestination.  If God loves everyone, why would Christ suggest that He would purposely seek to save some but not others?

In the pre-mortal life in heaven, God clearly explained the logic and reasons for everything. Many people believed and choose to follow God's plan not necessarily because they loved it, but because they could not disbelieve it.  Some Book of Mormon prophets taught with this kind of power.

"And it came to pass that they were angry with him, even because he had greater power than they, for it were not possible that they could disbelieve his words, for so great was his faith on the Lord Jesus Christ that angels did minister unto him daily. (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 7:18)"

This life is a test to find out who really loves God and who really loves truth. So, God doesn't necessarily "spell eveything out" so-to-speak. God allows there to be reasons for and against belief. The reasons for belief are much, much better but nevertheless there are reasons both for and against (oposition in all thing). This goes for belief in Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon or Christ or anything.  

Those who really love God and love the truth will hear the reasons for belief and will truely desire that these things be true. Those who love God and His way of doing things will cleave unto God, and cleave unto truth and seek, study, ponder, and pray and then receive a confirmation by the Holy Ghost.  Those who never really loved the truth and doing thing God's way will find plenty of reason's not to believe and continue on living their life the way they wish it.

God really is no respecter of persons. God is inviting all people to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him, but God calls in such a way that only those who truely love Him and love the truth will hear His voice. All are invited but God is separating out the valiant followers of Christ from the average but honorable "fair-weather fans".

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sukkot: The Feast of Tabernacles

According to the Old Testament, the House of Israel was supposed to observe 3 annual feasts: Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Weeks), and Sukkot (Tabernacles).  Each Feast was an occasion for Israel to renew their devotion to God.  Also, each of the Feasts looks back as a reminder of God's deliverance as well as looks forward as a type and shadow of glorious future events.

Passover commemorated the passing over of the angel of death which look the life of all the firstborn in Egypt.  Passover as a type, prefigured the atonement, crucifixion and death of the holy Messiah.  Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Law to Moses after being delivered from bondage.  Also, Shavuot or Pentecost prefigured the giving of the Gift of the Holy Ghost following Christ's assention.  Finally, Sukkot commemorates Israel dwelling in tents after leaving Egypt.  Also, Sukkot is a type and shaddow of a great gathering of the righteous at Adam-ondi-ahman in the Last Days before the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Sukkot has great symbolism associated with it.  The Feast of Tabernacles or Ingathering is celebrated right after the fall harvest each year. I'm sure it would be easy for anyone to feel very wealthy at harvest time.  However, it is just at this precise time when God calls for His people to leave their homes and joyfully dwell in tents or booths with their families for 8 days.  This commandment serves to remind us that happiness does not come from our material possessions but from our families and our relationship with God.

Israel was also to pay their tithes and offereings during this time.  Israel was specifically instructed to remember the  fatherless the the widow.  Concern for the poor and the stranger were major parts of all the feast observances.

In addition to being commanded to be a "happy camper", Israel was commanded to decorate using citrus fruit, and branches from the willow, myrtle, and palm trees.  The arrangement of the "4 kinds (species), is a reminder of the importance of unity. While we all should aspire to have the pleasant fragrance (faith), and sweet taste (works) of the citrus fruit, every person is important to God.

Today, God's people participate in a weekly Lord's Supper and pay tithes and offerings on a monthly basis instead of just 3 times a year. But just in case you may think we are off the hook from observing the Lord's Feast's, Zechariah prophesies that in the Last Days after Armageddon, all nations who attacked Israel will be required to observe Sukkot.

And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. (Old Testament, Zechariah, Zechariah 14:16)

The LDS Temple Garment


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The Path of Christian Discipleship

I was having a gospel conversation with a colleague  at work and we got talking about grace and repentance.  My colleague is a devoute Christian that has dedicated a major part of his life to international medicine. I greatly admire his pure Christian devotion.  Unselfish service to others is a halmark of true Christian discipleship according to James 1:27 "to visit the fatherless and the widow."  On this we agree.  

However, the focus of our conversation shifted focus to the second part of James' summation of pure religion, "to keep ourselves unspotted from the world".  As we got talking about international medicine, we started talking about the problems and solutions to poverty. The world has always taught that education is the great solution.  If we can just educate everyone, then poverty will go away. 

Robert Welch of the John Birch Society also made education his focus to combat the progressive/liberal/socialist movement sweeping the US and the World.  However, Mr. Welch couldn't have been more wrong.  See, a major focus of the progressive/liberal movement in the US has been steadily and slowly demoralizing the US, Europe, and the World (Fabian Strategy = cook a frog). 

Sexual immorality and chemical abuse creates poverty through illigitamacy, divorce, broken homes, and drug dependance.  The poor in socialist nations then turn to the government for welfare assistance which will print the checks but never address the virtue issues at the root cause of poverty.  Thus government welfare creates a dependent voting block that cannot easily be be educated (Mitt Romney's 47%). This demoralized and dependent voting block are then used to slowly vote away our freedoms and rights.  Instead of punishing the harm doer only, the progresive government chooses to punish all of society by instituting greater controls and limiting freedoms in the name of prevention. 

An addicted, demoralized person cannot think straight because they think more selfishly then selflessly. Consequently, you cannot easily educate a demoralized person on self-governing principles at the heart of constitutional government.  A demonalized person will ofttimes require a strong government to restrain their behavior. Therefore, a person must first become moral before they can be correctly educated.

A demoralized person can look at the same data and draw their own conclusions. Those conclusions such as "my cannabis abuse doesn't hurt anyone but me", or "cannabis is not addictive", or "legalizing cannabis will save the government money," or "abusing myself with recreational cannabis makes me healthier, happier, more intelligent, and creative", usually revolves around whatever excuses their own immoral or selfish behavior.  Accordingly only a return to virtue can end poverty and rescue the US Constitution which is the foundation for all Constitutional government on Earth.

This is why welfare according to James 1:27 is to be the business of the Church and not government.  Yes we should believe in a separation of Church and State.  The State needs to get out of the welfare business of religion. Only the Church can effectively remedy poverty because it is the only institution that can effectly address virtue and morality.  The jurisdiction of the State covers harm upon another person. Only the Church can discipline and rehabilitate by denying sacraments and disfellowship for harming yourself before your actions begin harming others.

My colleague seemed to think that the LDS Church doctrine was not gace-focused enough. I brought up Paul's teaching in 1 Cor 5:11 that "brothers" in the faith judged unrepentant of fornication, idolatry, covetousness, railing, drunkenness, and extortion should not be permitted to partake of the Lord's Supper unworthily and even be excommunicated from the Church.   

In response my friend, a Presbiterian, confessed he was sort-of a Calvinist and that it was his opinion that you can never overcome the flesh and never be perfect in this life so the doctrine of the Church should be focused on the grace of Christ that makes whatever we are-- good enough in Christ.  Christians should lift up their heads and rejoice in knowing they are saved and have arrived to an assurance of salvation through Christ.  Then only afterward, through that assurance of salvation in Christ, will they walk a godly walk in Christ.

Now, let me get to the point of all this. LDS do not deny the weakness of the flesh, nor do we believe we will arrive at perfection in this life. However, what we do believe is this: as James said, the purpose of religion is to help us keep ourselves unspotted from the world.  If religion is not helping me overcome the flesh, repent, resist the constant temptation, master the body, and sin less; than what good is it. Being assured of salvation is great, but sin still has terribly painful consequences.  That is why it is important to believe that the atonement of Christ is not just about grace to forgive sin but also grace and power to be better, to overcome sin, repent and forsake sin; "being thoroughly furnished unto all good works". 

That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (New Testament, 2 Timothy 3:17)

LDS doctrine doesn't deny grace but focuses on what grace applied can do.  Accordingly, LDS doctrine is repentance focused. LDS doctrine continually says that we can all, through the grace and power of Christ, continually "try a little harder to do a little better."  LDS know we can never be perfect in this life, but we also know we should never feel like we have arrived.  And not just about paying tithes and offerings, but in all aspects of our Christian discipleship. The LDS sermon is always encouraging us that through Christ we can serve others more, we can be more patient, forgiving, and humble.  LDS doctrine says that we ought to pray and fast and work more to do better.  And that is exactly why I go to Church, not to seductely hear (what my flesh wants to hear) that I have arrived.  Instead LDS doctrine tells me (what my spirit wants to hear and what my body needs to hear) to continually continue to improve and progress.

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (New Testament, Matthew, Matthew 4:17)

This attitude of never being finished, but continually stiving and enduring in Christ to be better is the true Christian path of discipleship that LDS aspire to.  There is not any point on the path that guarantees salvation more than any other point.  If you are on the path of Christian discipleship and continually striving and enduring and making progress through Christ to the end of your life; then as Elder McConkie has taught, if you are anywhere on the path when you die, "since there is no such thing as falling off the path in the next life, for all intents and purposes, your calling and election is made sure".  Thus we are all commanded to get on and stay on the path of true Christian discipleship and finish our course by enduring to the end.

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: (New Testament, 2 Timothy 4:7)

What are the benifits of LDS doctrine focus on repentance?:
1. Encourages and inspires me to be better in and through Christ in all aspects of my life.
2. Creates a community of safety, trust and unity where members are living up to a standard of conduct 1 Cor 5:11 and stiving to improve in other ways.
3. Encourages and inspires virtuous and moral living that remedies poverty.  "Christ takes the slum out of the person and the person takes themselves out of the slum."
4. Provides an assurance or hope of salvation in Christ through our faith demonstrated by our continual attitude, words and actions of striving and enduring to be more Christ-like.

If your church is not talking about, speaking out against, receiving confession for, and providing discipline for abortion, sexual sin and any form of recreational substance abuse according to 1 Cor 5:11-13, you are giving your gold to and dancing around the golden calf.  The unrepentant are commanded not to partake of the Lord's Supper unworthily.  

This is a merciful way to prevent the wayword, whom we love, from developing a false sense of security.  We all sin but those who continue in serious sin according to 1 Cor 5:11 should not be allowed to go through the motions of religious observance and partake of the sacraments.  In most cases we examine our own hearts.  In serious cases, the Bishop as a Judge in Israel serves to judge ritual purity as the High Priest did in the Old Teatament.

Radio talk show host Michael Savage is warning in his latest book that the demoralization and increased socialization of the US is dividing us and leading us to another civil war.  His solution is to vote republican this November and then constrain our republican representatives to close the borders, end the wars, and stop the welfare.  We should be careful to understand that shutting off welfare to the Barbarian Foederati is exactly what caused them to revolt, assassinate Caasar Romulus Augustus and divided the Roman Empire.

Instead, to save America and Constitutional government, the Churches in America need to repent and begin to do their job to care for the poor and needy (beginning with their own) and to teach virtue and morality. Then the poor and disabled will no longer be dependent on government. We have been demoralized as a nation and our only hope as a nation is to return to Jesus Christ who is the God of this nation by a return to virtue and pure religion.

Friday, October 03, 2014

"Are We Prepared?"

President Thomas S. Monson, president and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wrote an article in the September "Ensign" magazine on the principle preparedness and self-reliance.  President Monson began the article, as he does so often, telling an anecdote from his past. 

President Monson told of a service project where he spent a day pulling weeds and burning debris from around a poutry farm. However, Pres. Monson relates "there was just one disastrous problem. The noise and the fires so disturbed the fragile population of 5,000 laying hens that most of them went into a sudden molt and ceased laying."  

Pres. Monson related that "Thereafter we tolerated a few weeds so that we might produce more eggs."  

Without lighting fires or sounding any alarms, the prophet of the Lord instructs all members and everyone everywhere to perfect our skills, avoid debt, save and set some money aside, and have a supply of food, clothing, and, where possible, other necessities of life.

I think the molting chicken story is a very timely one. I am sure there are some who expect a prophet of God to be sounding the alarm and be continually foretelling impending doom.  However, Pres. Monson tells us that it we can be instructed exactly how to prepare for difficult times without causing needless worry, stress and fear that may cause many members to go "into a molt" and to cease being productive.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Boy Scouts of America

I am currently in the middle of taking a "Wood Badge" course (owl patrol) which is the Boy Scouts of America advanced adult leadership training.  The LDS Church loves scouting.  In fact, the LDS Church sponsors near 38% of total BSA units. (assuming 100,000 units).  Scouting is the youth program in the LDS Church.  Nearly every LDS congregation sponsors cub scout, boy scout, varsity team, and venture crew units.

"For All The Boys"
There has been some controversy in the media about BSA policy with regard to accepting boys who are homosexual. The BSA policy to continue to allow homosexual boys has caused some churches to abandon BSA.  When LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson was asked about the LDS view on this issue Pres. Monson responded emphatically, "scouting is for all the boys".  In reality, the BSA decision is not really a change.  Boys with same-gender attraction are expected to be "morally straight" along with all the rest of the boys and leaders.

Pres. Monson wrote about how scouting serves as a bridge.
Scouting is a bridge between the LDS faith and other religions.  Scouting is a bridge between the LDS Church and the community. For LDS members, scouting is a bridge to organization, membership, and fuller activity.  For the LDS boy scout, scouting is s bridge to adulthood, from the Aaronic to the Melchizedek priesthood, to serving a full-time mission, and to marrying in the temple.

I have both a Bachelors and Masters degree in Biochemistry.  In addition to the many lecture courses, I was also expected to take a number of laboratory classes.  Labs gave me a chance to put into practice many of the concepts that I was learning in lecture.  In a similar way, scouting gives young men the opportunity to apply and put into practice the moral values they learn on Sunday.  Scouting provides many opportunitues to practice Christ-like attributes though participating in community service or by sharing your water with a fellow scout on a hike.

Values and Discipline
Many people participate in competitive sports, martial arts, or even join the military in order to learn values, disciple, and develop leadership skills. Instead of learning discipline through competition or the art of war, how much better to learn values and discipline by participating in a service organization like BSA that practices the art of peace?

Wood Badge
Wood Badge is a 6-Day training experience divided up into 2, 3-day weekends.  I grew up in LDS scouting and participated in Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Exolorer Scouts.  Having grown up in scouts, I know what scouts is supposed to look like.  I've attended blue-and-gold banquets, participated in pinewood derbies, and survived several 50-miler adventures.  However, for the newcomer to scouting, I'm sure it could be difficult to run a cub scout or boy scout unit if you had never seen it done before. That is what Wood Badge is all about. Wood Badge provides its participants with a full scouting experience compressed down into 6 eventful and exhausting days.

In addition to camping, cooking and other outdoor skills, Wood Badge participants receive valuable leadership training in the Partrol Method, Effective Listening, EDGE Method, and Group Dynamics.  Wood Badge patrols are given numerous team-building games and activities as well as learning about the history, vision, and purpose of scouting.  

Patrol Method 
When you get a big group together, you are likely to get the formation of cliques with some members feeling left out.  Patrols make sure every member of the troop belongs and is a productive part of a team.  Also, like hyperthreading in a computer CPU, having multiple partrols makes it possible for multiple tasks to be accomplished at the same time (in parallel). 

A big part of teaching begins with effective listening. Effective listening involves both listening for content but also reading body language.  Also, empathetic listening involves listening for understanding, emotional validation, and emotional availibility (sharing a feeling) while at the same time being able to provide correction or redirection.  Effective listening builds a relationship of trust and opens the door for teaching.

EDGE Method
"EDGE" stands for Explain, Demonstrate, Guide, and Enable.  Sometimes scout leaders can get into the bad habit of asking scouts to perform tasks that the scouts have not been adequately trained to do.  Inevitably, the result is that scout is unsuccessful and the scout leader has to swoop in and save the day.  This can create an unhealthy dependent relationship between the scouts and the leader. Instead of gaining confidence and indepentance, scouts with ineffective leadership can loose confidence.

Boy Led
Scouting is supposed to be boy led.  Ideally, scouts should be empowered to plan activities, plan meals, shop, pack, set up camp, cook and clean up afterwoods with appropriate instruction guidance and supervision.  Scout Leaders should not be doing all the work. In fact, this "boy led" principle is not just a scouting principle but an eternal principle.  In the LDS Church, young men at age 12 are given the Aaronic priesthood and the deacons quorum president is given priesthood keys and authority to make assignments and administer the Lords Supper each Sunday under the direction of the Bishop.

Group Dynamics
Whenever a new group gets together, enthusiasm is high and skills are low.  There may be strong personalities and even stronger opinions.  As group members get to know one another and gain trust, the group goes through a progression of stages: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing.  It is important to recognize these stages especially "storming" so you can effectively progress to the performing stage. Validating everyone in the group may require patience and flexibility to try things a new way.

Game With Purpose
Scouting has been described as a "game with a purpose".  However, if scouts is all just fun and games, then the boys are missing out on the purpose.  The purpose of scouting is to teach a boy His duty to God and his country. Scouting is meant to instill within him the 12 values of the scout law. The cheers, songs, skits, and games are the appetizer.  The faith, values and virtue are the main course

Return to Virtue
I work in a busy Emergency Room and I see the consequences of poverty every day.  Sexual immorality leading to illigitamacy and drug abuse leading to addiction are the leading causes of poverty in America.  Poor American's are increasingly becoming dependent on Government welfare which never addresess the virtue issues at the root of the problem.  Consequently over the last 100 years we have seen the steady demoralization of America into a voting block that is increasingly voting for those progressive/liberal politicians who support the steady errosion of our individual liberty and freedom.  We are seeing the slow death of our nation.

I have to admit being shocked when I brought up "chastity and sobriety" as an example of morals during a Wood Badge lecture when the instructor labeled these as "personal beliefs".  I was surprised that there were scout leaders for which the Scout Oath to "keep themselves mentally awake, and morally straight" took on a different meaning.  

Duty to God
The LDS "Duty to God" program works in concert with the Scouting program.  scouting teaches a boy that he must live up to and perform his duty to God.  However, scouting leaves it up to each individual family and church to tell a boy what that duty is. The LDS Church has the Duty to God program and "For the Strength of Youth" which defines exactly what that duty is.  The LDS Duty to God is not a laundry list of tasks to be performed and marked off once and never again. Instead, the program invites boys to make lifestyle commitments to pray, read scriptures, and give service that will become lifelong habits.

LDS Mission
Scouting is helping LDS youth resist temptation; keeping themselves morally clean and sober.  After completing scouting and after High School,  LDS young men together with young women are encouraged to serve LDS missions. LDS missionaries are sent around the world as social and spiritual therapists to encourage individuals and families to do their duty to God and Family by praying regularly, reading scripture and attending church. Socially LDS missionaries admonish others to live a life of integrity, chastity, fidelity, and sobriety by avoiding any addiction.  The LDS Mission is a life-changing experience but not if the missionary has not also lived what he or she is preaching.  Scouting helps boys live clean and virtous lives so they can become missionaries of the Lord with great moral and spiritual authority.

I have a soon-to-be 14-year-old son who is actively participating in scouting.  I am grateful for the many leaders who have devoted their time to mentoring him.  I have served off and on in various limited capacities in scouting mostly as a parent and merit badge counselor.  But I recognize the great value in scouting as a bridge, a laboratory, and as a game with the purpose of instilling in both youth and adults principles of faith, virtue and freedom.

[Who knows if the scout uniform may be the uniform that will be worn by the righteous who will be gathered and organized to peacefully defend freedom, America, and Constitutional Government in the Last Days]