Thursday, April 23, 2015

Temple: Path to Purity and Peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Temple Sanctification

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Paul is being exclusionary or just making vain lists?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Go and Sin No More

Evangelical doctrine finds its roots in pharisaic schools of divinity and theology which Christ condemned.  The Pharisees had their Bible (OT) as the Evangelical Theologians do (NT).  What I am sharing is not unique to me either, but built upon a firm foundation of living Apostles and Prophets who are choosen by Christ and ordained by revelation and by the laying on of hands and inspired by God in Christ to interpret scripture.

And yes, LDS know and accept that we are all sinners and even after we accept Christ we will still be sinners because of the natural man but because Christ's righteousness is imputed to us we can reveive the Holy Ghost which begins to change us.  And we will never be perfect in this life, only perfect in Christ.  LDS already got that.  I think people misunderstand LDS Doctrine because they hear us taking to the "already-justified" and focused on the sanctification part that comes after Justification.  So, are we WRONG in preaching the process of sanctification to the Saints (Sancts)? Why does the incomplete Evangelical doctrine stop at Justification?  LDS Baptism is about Justification but almost everyone in an LDS Congegation is already baptized. So we talk about sanctification. The LDS Temple is about magnifying the spiritual process of sanctification (Ezek 37:26, Heb 7:11).

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

LDS believe in and accept Christ's grace and the message of grace.  This is not an either/or proposition for LDS.   However, at the same time, I don't think Paul was giving vain speeches when he made his many lists describing what he means by righteousness or wickedness.  LDS accept all scripture not just the parts we like.  Paul did not make lists "for our infomation only, but don't worry about actually striving to living by them, or repeating them in your sermons".

I do appreciate the grace of Christ that empowers and enables repentance, that binds up the broken hearted and lifts the hands that hang down and strengthens the feeble knees. But as a physican, I know opioids alone can elevate suffering but cannot by themselves heal an abscess when an incision and drainage is required. Christ is the Great Physician and can allow us to experience some necessary initial pain and suffering knowing that it will bring about healing.

The issue of "positive-only grace message" vs "grace and repentance" or "justification-only vs. justification and sanctification" is a major theme in the Book of Mormon. God foreknew we would be having this very discussion.  Accordingly, Jacob in the Book of Mormon expressed his dilemma in being commanded by God to call his people to repentance when he wished of himself just to tell the people what they wanted to hear (good words and fair speeches). 

Wherefore, it burdeneth my soul that I should be constrained, because of the strict commandment which I have received from God, to admonish you according to your crimes, to enlarge the wounds of those who are already wounded, instead of consoling and healing their wounds; and those who have not been wounded, instead of feasting upon the pleasing word of God have daggers placed to pierce their souls and wound their delicate minds. (Book of Mormon, Jacob 2:9)

Jacob wished he could preach a positive-only message and not have to call the people to repentance.  But sometimes an abscess must be incised and drained befire there can be healing.    Abinadi (Mosiah 12) another great prophet in the Book of Mormon was questioned and burned alive over this issue of preaching repentance and a positive-only message.  Many Prophets thoughout the ages have been killed based on this exact issue.  No one wants to be told they are wrong had have to change.  But only the Meek (teachable) will inherit the Earth.  Mormon commented to his son Moroni on this issue that when he was soft with the people they hardened their heart and when he was harsh they became angry.  

When Book of Mormon prophets were sent among the people to stir them up into remembrance of Christ and their duty, they refer to it as magnifying and administering according to the "Holy Order" of God.  When false preachers established churches to get gain (filthy lucre), and preach a popular message; it is referred to as "priestcraft". 

But again, this isn't a false dichotomy here.  Alma to the people of Gideon (Alma 7) expressed joy and thanksgiving because they were believing and walking in Christ's way that he was able to give them a more positive message.  

But I think Peter 2 helps clarify our dilemma:

1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 
2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 
3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. 

False prophets and false teachers teaching false doctrine are out to make merchandise of us.

4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; 
5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; 
6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; 
7 And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: 
8 (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) 
9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: 

Peter warns that God is still a God of justice to the ungody and a God of mercy to the righteous and can by the grace of Christ, deliver us from temptations

18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. 
19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. 
20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 
21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. 
22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. (New Testament, 2 Peter 2)

If we return to our wicked ways instead of making use of the grace of Christ, Peter says, "it would have been better for us to have not known it". 

This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: (New Testament, 2 Peter 3)

So, according to  Peter, sometimes the word of God "stirs up our minds to rememberance".

He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (New Testament, 1 John 2)

Making use of Christ's grace and being empowered to keep Christ's commandments to be honest, charitable and chaste is a sign that we have truely received Christ and that the grace and spirit of Christ is working in us.  But at the same time it is a process by which we grow from grace to grace and the light of Christ grows brighter and brighter.

From the same chapter every false preacher loves to use to call his congregation to repentance when it comes to tithes and offerings:

1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. 
2 But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: 
3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. 
4 Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years. 
5 And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts. 
6 For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. (Old Testament, Malachi 3)

A messenger will be sent before the Second Coming of Christ.  And the Temple will be rebuilt before the Second Coming but not like the OT.  But instead the Latter-day temple will be built to every kingdom, nation, tongue and people (Including Jerusalem, Rev 14:6) and administer the new and everlasting covenant which will sanctify Israel  (Ezekiel 37:26) and has the power to perfect (Hebrews 7:11).   But instead of being concerned with outward purity, the sons of Levi and all those who pass through the veil into the presence of the Lord will be purified and sanctified on the inside.  Yes, the veil has been parted and Christ has made a place for us that where He is, we may also be also; on conditions of making use of Christ's grace to both justify and sanctify, repent and purify ourselves inwardly eventually leading to the perfect day after the Resurrection.

In the OT temple only one, once a year, could enter Gods presence. In the Latter-day temple, all those who take upon themselves Christ's name and make use of Christs grace to inwardly sanctify themselves can be dressed in white robes, receive a new name, and pass through the veil into God's presence (see Rev 1-3).  

LDS do not believe that the Mitzvot of Baptism or the Lords Supper or Temple guarantee anything. Yes we are commanded to receive them.  But going through the motions and growing worse and worse in sin at the same time brings condemnation not salvation.  But these Mitzvot are also given by Christ to magnify the sanctifying effect of His spirit to bring about in us a greater charity, honesty and chastity and overall greater sanctification (not perfection).  Who wouldn't want that?  Who wouldn't want to magnify Christ's spirit in themselves and in their marriage?

And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (New Testament, John 8:11)

Is Jesus Christ and the LDS wrong to include "sin no more" in our doctrine or are the Evangelical Theologians mistaken for subtracting this?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Romans: Patient Continuance in Well Doing

In addition to preaching faith and grace, Paul in his epistle to the Romans does plenty of admonishing the saints to repentance and righteousness.  So does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Paul warns us to beware "good words and fair speeches". Paul likes to make long lists to the Saints of what he means by righteousness and wickedness but these are not vain lists.  The only vanity would be those who would tell you to ignore them.

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. (New Testament, Romans 1:8)

What does paul mean by faith? Is faith just an attitude of belief or righteous behavior or both attitude and behavior?  Were the Roman Saints renown for their words for Jesus alone or for both their good words and their works?

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (New Testament, Romans 1:16)

God is no respecter of persons despite the gospel going to one group before another. What about the barbarian and heathen nations?  Why the order of preaching?  How do we believe?

Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? (New Testament, Romans, Romans 2:4)

Power of Christ's Atonement leads us to repentance and empowers repentance. If we continue in sin, are we "despising" the goodness of God?

Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, (New Testament, Romans 2:7-8)

We will be rewarded for our deeds. The reward of Eternal life requires patient continuance in well doing.  But the disobedient will be rewarded wrath.

For there is no respect of persons with God. (New Testament, Romans 2:11)

Charity, honesty, integrity, chastity blesses anyone under any circumstances.  But without Christ and revelation, man would have no knowledge of charity but would only know selfishness.

For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (New Testament, Romans, Romans 2:12)

Atonement of Christ covers sins of the ignorant.  But you cannot be saved in ignorance but cant be condemned either. Therefore preaching in the world of spirits and baptism for the dead required. 

For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. (New Testament, Romans, Romans 2:13)

We must be doers not just hearers

For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? (New Testament, Romans 2:25-26)

What good does it do us if we call ourselves Jews or Christians but continue to lie, cheat, steal?  Are not unbelievers also blessed by obedience?  Circumcision like baptism is a mitzvot but does no good without righteousness.

But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. (New Testament, Romans 2:29)

Our need for the Savior and Inward purity (sacrificing our animal natures) was the the point: Honesty, integrity, charity, humility, chastity, patience.

What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? (New Testament, Romans, Romans 3:1)

Do not confuse Jewish mitzvot or ritual requirements of the Law of Moses with inward requirements to be charitable, honest and chaste.

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:  There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. (New Testament, Romans, Romans 3:10-12)

Without the Atonement of Christ none of us would have the knowledge or power of righteous restraint. We would all just act like unrestrained animals.

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (New Testament, Romans, 3:20)

Do not confuse the Jewish mitzvot (outward performances of the Law of Moses) with honesty, integrity, patience, charity, chastity.

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. (New Testament, Romans 3:28)

Similarly we are not justified by mitzvot of baptism or sacrament or temple endowment but through faith: charity, honesty, chastity

For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. (New Testament, Romans, Romans 4:3)

Abraham didnt have the all the Mitzvot of the Law of Moses.  But it was the charity, obedience to God, honesty that was important.

For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. (New Testament, Romans 5:19)

Adam's transgression brought sin and the natural fallen man into the world.  Christ's atonement forgives past sins and empowers repentance and obedience.

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (New Testament, Romans, Romans 6:1-2)

Should offense or grace abound? Paul differentiates mitzvot vs inward purity.

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (New Testament, Romans 6:4)

Those baptized are new creatures and should walk in a newness of life: charity, honesty, chastity.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. (New Testament, Romans 6:12)

Paul admonishes that sin not reign or have dominion over us.

For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. .... wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (New Testament, Romans, Romans 7:19;24)

Accepting Christ's atonement doesn't make us perfect over night.  But Christ's righteousness is imputed to us. The process of improvement begins.

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. (New Testament, Romans 8:2)

Does Christ free us from responsibility and worry about obedience at all?  Or does Christ's forgiveness empower repentance and improved obedience.

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. (New Testament, Romans, Romans 8:28-29)

Many are called but few are chosen.  But those who will be with Christ at His coming will be called, chosen, and faithful.  Those whom God calls he qualifies if we receive the calling.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (New Testament, Romans 8:38-39)

Love of Christ conquers all even the natural man within us.

So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. (New Testament, Romans 9:16)

Calling of the Gentiles like Jacob over Esau was by mercy.  God fore-knew who would be faithful.

Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; (New Testament, Romans 9:32)

Basis of choosing is faithfulness.  Israel like Esau strayed and the Gentiles like Jacob were faithful.

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (New Testament,  Romans 10:9-10)

Not just confess but also believe unto righteousness: honesty, chastity, charity.

And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. (New Testament, Romans 11:6)

Paul doesn't confuse mitzvot with honesty and chastity. The 7000 remnant had refused to bow to Baal.  

For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. (New Testament, Romans 11:21)

Cutting off and grafting in dependent upon goodness.  

For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. (New Testament, Romans, Romans 11:32)

God makes the first move to rescue us even in our unbelief and fallen state.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (New Testament, Romans, Romans 12:2)

Sacrifice worldly self to the will of God

Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. (New Testament, Romans, Romans 12:21)

Paul admonishes the Saints to righteousness

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: (New Testament, Romans 13:3)

Righteousness is a protection from government.

The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. (New Testament, Romans, Romans 13:12)

Cast off works of darkness

But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. (New Testament, Romans, Romans 13:14)

Make not provision for the flesh

Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. (New Testament,  Romans 14)

Doubtful disputers not welcome

Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. (New Testament, Romans 14)

Some will decide to partake of the Lords Supper and others not.  Same with the Temple. We judge ourselves.

For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. (New Testament,  Romans 14:17)

Not about the Lord's Supper but righteousness.  So, be careful not to offend and discourage and be a stumbling-block to the weak.

We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. (New Testament, Romans 15:1)

The strong attend church not to please themselves but to serve the weak.

For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, (New Testament, Romans 15:18)

Paul's commission to help the Gentiles obedient in word and deed.

For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. (New Testament,  Romans 15:26)

Saints to minister to the poor spiritually and temporally.

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. (New Testament, Romans, Romans 16:17-18)

False doctrine creates division.  Beware good words and fair speeches.  Those that serve their own belly.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all... that is of power... for the obedience of faith: (New Testament, Romans,16:24-26)

Grace of Christ is power enabling the obedience of faith.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Narcissism: It's all about image

Moreover the Lord saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet: (Old Testament, Isaiah,  3:16)

President Uchtdorf has mentioned the word Narcissism and warned against this attitude and behavior in several recent talks.  Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a medical and psychiatric term which I wanted to help better define.  If you read the following description and recognize any if these natural tendencies in your behavior, you are probably not as narcissistic as you fear.  If you read this list and think none of it applies to you, I would be more concerned and maybe invite you to pray and then ask the opinion of someone you trust about it. President Uchtdorf challenges all of us to examine and ask ourselves, "Is it I?"

Narcissus is a mythological Greek god that fell in love with his own image.  Today with all the social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, etc, many of us have become consumed and enamored with our online image. Some of us associate our selfworth with number of Twitter followers, Facebook friends, or even out level 100 Frost Mage in WOW.  But why is there so much Narcism in the world?  The controlled western media has been pushing a "its all about you" advertising campaign for several decades.

Within the Church, Narissism can take on a different but related form.  Some individuals can get too obsessed with their spiritual and righteous image.  Yes, we should all be concerned with our personal spirituality and righteousness, but be concerned less about how others perceive us. We should be good examples but not put on a holier-than-thou fascade.  Continually broadcasting to others our personal insights into the scriptures, personal revelations, and visions may be a sign of going beyond the mark in this area. Having a blog and naming it ldsdoctrine might be another. 

Becoming too preoccupied with our spiritual image can open us up to be decieved by Satan. We can find the right balance by making sure we are more concerned with how God and our Bishop sees us then how others see us. A healthy attitude is concerned with doing good and improving ourselves.  An unhealthy attitude is more concerned with appearing more righteous and spiritual and even more humble than everyone else.  A healthy Church attitude in my opinion involves accepting callings from your Bishop, and then doing the very best you can, and as Pres. Uchtdorf says, "stand together and lift where you stand."  An unhealthy attitude would be to decline a calling because we don't think we could do the calling better than it has ever been done, or better than anyone else is doing their calling. A narcissist may reject a perceived difficult calling because they would be more concerned about how struggling through it would affect their image.  A narcissist  doesn't want to look bad but will give themselves other reasons for their refusal.

Narisistic Personality Disorder according to DSM IV and V can be looked up online and involves a pathologic obsession with self-image and self-importance.  Additionally, Narcissism is a spectrum disorder and is often considered by the narcissist to be a normal part of a person's personality style.  Narcististic tendencies not covered in DSM include: 

1. Obsessed with their virtual, physical, spiritual and social image.   
2. Too easily gets defensive even when criticism is not directed at them. 
3. Dishes out plenty of cutting personal criticism to shift attention away from their own weaknesses.
4. Cannot easily listen to the ideas of others.
5. Project their own faults and feelings onto others 
6. Difficulty apologizing or admitting fault.
7. In a discussion when proven wrong, just continually shifts the argument but never adjusts their thinking.
8. Demands praise and compliments 
9. Self-centered, everything involves how it will affect them. 
10. Entitlement mentality 
11. Inflated self-importance 
12. Attention seeking 
13. Jealous of others success. 
14. Lacks insight. Their behavior is their personality style.
15. Pathologic belief that God gives them exclusive revelation and insight because of their righteousness over others. 
16. Unappreciative of others.
17. Judge others based on results and themselves based on intention.
18. Always an exception or making an excuse to justify their sin.
19.  Easily falls victim to flattery.
20. Who is right is more important than what is right.
21. Grandstand and want to take credit but divert blame.
22. When solving a problem more interested in whose to blame than the solution.
23. Cannot accept the reality of conspiracy because it means acceptance that they are not important in the eyes of the world.
24. Not just about self-esteem, 
self-consciousness and 
inadequacy, but a manifestation of a deficiency of faith vs. doubt, hope vs. fear, and charity vs. pride .

[This list describes the behavior of many characters portrayed on TV.  You're welcome, to anyone who uses this insight to become an award-winning television writer.]

Why is recognizing Narcissism in ourselves important? First, it can be very difficult to solve problems with a group of people with strong narcissistic tendencies. It is similarly nearly impossible to solve problems in a marriage where partners are both strongly Narcissistic.  Other than abuse, If a marriage is failing it may be that both sides are exhibiting these natural behaviors.

Second, our love of the world and the worldly blinds us to spiritual things and especially spiritual threats.  We can tend to make excuses and rationalize our sins.  Also, the Book of Mormon warns us about secret combinations seeking to overthrow the freedom of all nations (Ether 8). In addition to our general lack of virtue, our narcissism is also blinding us to these secret combinations that seek to destroy us like they did the Jaredites and Nephites because awakening to the reality of evil would mean accepting that the world considers us not only worthless and expendable but also a liability (useless eater, harmful carbon dioxide producer).

Not eveyone who is asleep to the reality of global conspiracy is a narcissist. In many cases, blindness to evil can involve people like Lehi and Eve whose minds are too pure and without guile to even notice the filthiness of the water or conceive that the serpent had ill intent. But, Nephi and Moroni noticed the filthiness and the ill intent of Satan and spent considerable effort to warn us about it. 

The grandiose extroverted narcissist feels entitled and more important than others expectimg special treatment.  They deny making any mistakes and will often hide errors, or blame them on others and resent anyone who points them out or seeks to provide constructive feedback.

The vulnerable introverted narcissist also feels entitled and expects special treatment but when they make a mistake they will usually alway make excuses and justify their failures because of their more difficult situation.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Atonement of Christ is Power

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith—History, Joseph Smith—History 1)

When 14-year-old Joseph Smith went into what is referred to now as the Sacred Grove to pray to pray concerning the welfare of his soul and to ask which church to join. Joseph Smith received a marvelous and miraculous heavenly visitation of God the Father and Jesus Christ.

During this heavenly visitation Joseph Smith asked which church he should join.  His Christian father was disallusioned by organized religion.  His mother and siblings were drawn to the Presbyterian while he preferred the Methodist.  Christ's response surprised Joseph. Never before had he considered that all the churches were in error.  One reason Christ gave for their error was that they "denied the power of godliness".

What is the power of God?  What does it mean to deny the power of godliness?  How do other churches deny the power of God? 

Power is a physics principle, specifically the ability to do work. Power equals work divided by time.  Work is also a principle of physics and natural law, specifically force times time. However, the interesting aspect of work is that if you push against a wall, you may have exerted a lot of effort and energy; but, if the wall doesn't move, then no work has been performed.  And if no work has been performed, there is no power.

False religion likes to talk about the Atonement of Christ that is all grace without power.  Power to do what?  Power to repent, power to change, power to receive personal revelation from God, to confer priesthood authority, to experience miracles, to continue to call living prophets, apostles, and seventies, to build sacred temples, and for husbands and wives to be married in this life and to continue to be sealed together for eternity.  

For many religions, it is enough to want to repent and change and resist the natural man without being given hope that they can actually do it. For many religions it is enough to ponder the meaning and purpose of life without actually expecting to receive an answer. However, in the true Church of Christ, Christ's Atonement has the power to transform us, sanctify us, perfect us in Christ and reveal to us the answers to the important questions of the soul.  The atonement of Christ is power to divide the seas and move mountains, even personal ones.

Faith in God for Girls Implementation and Purposeful Activity Selection

Here are some thoughts about the implementation of the Faith in God for Girls program and Activity Days Program Activities selection and Church Activities in general.  After our ward council on this issue, I wanted to clarify a few things: 

A. Our proposal was not seeking to "change" the programs of the Church but improve their implementation. Again, the "Faith in God for Girls" program is a perfect program. It doesn't need any improvements. What can be improved is our implementation.   We have zero interest in steadying the ark.

B. The Augusta Stake is making this a topic of attention and has called a meeting to discuss it.  This is a great opportunity to suggest improvements in implementation of the "Faith in God for Girls" program.  

C. The problem with activity selection and planning in the Church is not just an Activity Day Girls problem. This affects other programs like Young Men/Young Women's, Relief Society, as well as Boy Scouts.  All of these programs can improve in the selection of worthwhile, purpose-driven activities.  As President Hinkley said, "it is not enough just to be good. You must be good for something".  Similarly when it comes to activities, it is not enough to be fun, they should be fun with a purpose.

D.  Families make a big sacrifice to bring their children to Church activities.  When you schedule a child, you schedule the family.  (Elder Cornish) Activities need to be fun and purpose-driven.

E.  As a side-benefit, if participants are actively engaged in worthwhile, fun, creative, and purpose-driven activities, there will be an increase in spirit, cooperation, and unity. 

F. What no one wants to see is Relief Society  enrichment activities were a plastic surgeon is invited to talk about Botox and collagen injections (true story in my SLC home ward) or Activity Day Girl activities where all the girls show up to paint fingernails (extreme example to illustrate).

G. All the topics that I listed are found in and part of the Activity Day Girl "Faith in God for Girls" Manual.  What I am suggesting, is that instead of picking a girl and telling her "you have the activity next week, good luck". We can empower her by giving her a range of topics to choose from, let her select one that interests her, and then help her prepare and come up with a fun activity that fulfills the requirement and introduces the skill- a skill that fulfills a "Faith in God for Girls" requirement and will help her in her future role as a wife and mother in Zion and bless her family according to the "Proclamation on the Family".

H. It is not enough to want to love.  We need to add skills to the love and learn how to love. (BYU Conference on Family and Marriage).  Similarly, while it begins with a desire, it is not enough to just want to serve, but when we have acquired skills, the doors of opportunity to serve will be opened up to us.

I. Just as Cub Scouts is becoming more skill-based and less task-oriented, Activity Day Girls can also be skill-oriented and less task-based in its fulfilling the "Faith in God for Girls" requirements.

J.  This Activity Day Girl Curriculum has 20+ suggested areas of focus and 3 yearly big weekend events. One or two areas of focus would be chosen each month.  Each area of focus has several subareas.  The reason it is good to have a standardized curriculum is that certain topics that are important but may seem dull get skipped because leaders want to do only the "fun" activities.  But in reality, even the seemingly dull topics can be made fun with a little creativity.  Activities would be fun with a purpose.  (Note: all categories come out of the Faith in God for Girls manual)

1. Safety- kitchen, child, home, car, learn about car seats, personal defense, put out kitchen fire, use baking soda, use fire extinguisher, turn off gas and electricity and water in an emergency, visit fire station.
2. Cooking and Nutrition- cookies, cake, pie, holiday dinner, food pyramid, vitamins
3. Sewing- buttons, mend socks, hem, knitting, crochet, quilting.
4. Gardening- soil prep, timing, watering, fertilizer, weeds, spacing, pruning.
5. Child Care- diaper changing, baby sitting, baby proofing home, feeding.
6. Games- board games, pioneer games, get-to-know-you-games, skits, card games, dice games, plan FHE.
7. Party- baby shower, invitations, food, activities, decorations.
8. Canning and Preserving- fruit, meat, smoking, dehydrating, jams and jellies
9. Homesteading- cheese, butter, soap, candles
10. Animal Care- feeding, grooming, pets, chickens, goats, rabbits.
11. Budget and Finance- budget, credit, fill out check, coupons, tithing, sales, thrift, yard  sales, learn to fill out tithing slip.
12. Medical and Hygiene- first aid, cpr, fever, nausea, sprains, cuts, bruises, cold, hygiene 
13. Music- talent show, singing, instruments
14. Family History- pedigree, family search, temple ready, personal histories, scrapbooking, visit temple.
15. Creative Writing- poetry, journaling, essays, short stories, write letters to grandparents or missionaries.
16. Art- painting, sculpture, water color, photoshop, crafts, visit museum.
17. Outdoor Appreciation- biking, hiking, conservation, build fire, outdoor cooking.
18. Recycling and Repurposing- "use it up, wear it out, fix it up, or do without", visit recycling center
19. Personal Fitness- learn a sport, play a new active game, go on a hike, develop personal fitness plan. 
20. Citizenship- write a letter to congressman. attend town hall meeting, learn local, state and national representatives. 
O. Worldly topics to avoid: hair, makeup, jewelry, fashion, etc. (Isa 3:16-26).

P. There could be a system of recognition set up like scouting to recognize girls for their participation.  The cub scouts has an expensive belt loop program that is being implemented but individual church units have been asked not to spend church money on these loops.  Activity Day Girls recognition could be a simple charm bracelet with charms or apron with pins.

Q. Activity Day Girls should have several bigger annual events that put into practice and/or showcase many of the skills the girls are learning in their bimonthly activities.  Ideas for bigger annual events includes:

1. Daddy-Daughter Dinner and Dance: this has already been excellently demonstrated by the Stake and Steven's Creek Ward.

2. Stake Fair: All young women and activity day girls from the stake bring activities, crafts, art, posters, demonstrations to share.

3. Outdoor Picnic BBQ Dinner and Fireside: incoperate and showcase outdoor skills like outdoor cooking techniques.

4. Ward Temple Night: the girls watch younger children at the church while parents and young adults attend the Temple.

5. Etiquette Dinner: Girls can cook and serve a multi-course dinner for themselves and parents learning about place-settings, serving, and dining etiquette.

R.  Activity Day girls should begin and end with a prayer. Girls can conduct the meeting. Meetings should also include learning and singing one of the Article of Faith songs from the "Children's Songbook".