Sunday, August 30, 2015

Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy

"And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made." (Old Testament, Genesis 2:2-3)

Today I was teaching primary sharing time. Our congregation's 5th Sunday topic was "keeping the Sabbath Day Holy".  I told the children that our Prophet and Apostles had been praying and discussing this issue and wanted us to be talking about it.  I shared Elder Bednar's instruction that the most critical time in life when we are most at risk of falling away from the gospel path is after our children are baptized and before they are endowed in the temple.  This got the children's attention as they had never before supposed they were an "at risk" population. 

After much pondering and prayer, the Brethern have concluded that if families do better at keeping the Sabbath Day holy, this practice alone would do more than any other to help our children surmount the dangerous period between baptism and temple endowment. This is because parents who keep the Sabbath Day better model and teach gospel principles by word and example.

And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day; (Doctrine and Covenants, D&C 59:9)

In addition to keeping ourselves unspotted from the world, I shared with the children 2 more reasons why we are to keep the Sabbath Day. First, Sabbath observance shows God our gratitude for creation. While we express our gratitude to God for creation in prayer and song;  Observing the Sabbath Day demonstrates our gratitude not just by what we say but also by what we do.

Second, proper Sabbath Day observance gives us the proper eternal perspective. While working for mammon is necessary here in mortality, there is no money in heaven.  Every day in heaven is the Sabbath Day where we do Gods will instead of our own. Keeping the Sabbath Day keeps us grounded in the eternal reality of what is of true and lasting value. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Jesus Christ: The Brazen Serpent

"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:14-15)

If the serpent or snake is a symbol of Satan who tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and then was cursed by God; why does Christ also use the symbol of the fiery serpent to represent himself?  All symbols and all creation are Gods. Satan is the one who impersonated, counterfeits, steals and corrupts a symbol. Nothing belongs to Satan as he can not create anything. 

Why is a venemous serpent used as a great symbol of Christ? Christ as a healing serpent is a powerful and suprisingly accurate symbol. Think about how you treat a venomous snake bite-- with antivenom from another venemous snake. Antiserum is created by harvesting and injecting the snake venom into a horse or rabbit forming antibodies against the venom. Then you administer the healing blood or serum containing these antibodies into the envenomated patient.

So, just think about this miraculous metaphor of Christ's Atonement. Like anti-venom, only after taking upon Himself the poison of our sins and death does Christ's blood become the needed healing anti-serum. All those who look to Christ and take upon themselves His blood will be healed and live eternally.

Like antivenom, convelescent serum is the only effective treatment for the most deadly hemorrhagic viruses like Ebola.  The antigen/antibody principle of immunity is also the basis for immunization and vaccination technology.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Jurisdiction of Government and Religion

It is the jurisdiction of government to prosecute and rehabilitate those who cause harm to others such as distributing recreational drugs. Distrubution causes harm to the buyer.  The recreational intent is directly connected to the form in which the substance is being sold. Abusing ourselves with psychoactive chemicals (natural or synthetic) exploits our natural brain-reward systems. Chemical abuse and causal sexual immorality contributes to greater poverty via decreased productivity (idle poor) and illegitimacy (broken families).  Yes, recreational drinking beverage alcohol should not be illegal, but distribution should be.

Religion has the jurisdiction to discipline those who cause harm to themselves.  The jurisdiction of the Church is welfare and virtue (James 1:27).  Government can tax and then write and distribute checks but they cannot inspire personal virtue at the root cause of poverty like religion can.  Only religion can discipline, rehabilitate, and inspire personal virtue.  Only religion can end poverty and realize greater social justice.

Greater private immorality leads to increasing public poverty and greater social injustice. In the setting of social inequality, corrupt and opportunistic individuals swoop in to seize government power promising greater social equality in exchange for our freedom.  In reality, government welfare enables and exploits the poor until there is an absolute consolidation of power and all our freedoms and liberties have been wrested away.

The United States and the rest of the Private Central Banking-Controlled world is bankrupt.  The US alone is 18 Trillion dollars in debt. The US is on fiscal life support with QE adrenaline being main-lined into the economy to keep our heart beating.  Maybe a few vital signs (Dow Jones, inflation, and job creation numbers) are looking okay on the patient  monitor, but that shouldn't get us to overlook the fact that our country is only staying alive thanks to a ventillator and artificial resuscitation.

Donald Trump wants America to be great and prosperous again.  He thinks he can rehabilitate the US and achieve prosperity by builing a wall and cutting a few shrewd business deals.  It won't work.  Failed emigration, economic, financial and military polcies are only symptoms and not the cause of America's problems.  Only a return to virtue will save America and the freedom of all nations. (Ether 8:25)

Brent Skowcroft was the national security advisor for George H W Bush.  In his testimony before a US senate subcommittee, Scowcroft was telling Senator McCain and others how they were responsible for liberalizing the current but "disastrous" Westphalia System in favor of returning to another global system like that which existed during the Dark Ages before the Moravians, Lutherans and Huguenots won their and our religious and political freedom following the 30-Years War.

This Fair article got me thinking on this.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Samuel the Lamanite

"And now, it came to pass that there were many who heard the words of Samuel, the Lamanite, which he spake upon the walls of the city. And as many as believed on his word went forth and sought for Nephi; and when they had come forth and found him they confessed unto him their sins and denied not, desiring that they might be baptized unto the Lord." (Book of Mormon, Helaman, 16:1)

The Book of Mormon recounts the history of a lost tribe of Israel who were led away from Israel in about 600 BC to America.  Upon arriving in America, the families of Lehi and Ishmael separated into 2 groups known afterward as the Nephites amd Lamanites.  The Book of Mormon recounts the eventual conversion of many of the Lamanites to the Lord and at the same time the increasing pride and apostasy of the, once faithful, Nephites because of their prosperity.  

At a certain point just prior to the appearance of Jesus Christ in America, a Lamanite prophet was raised up among the Lamanites who gave a powerful but brief sermon and witness of Jesus Christ to the more wicked Nephites.  

I don't know if Samuel the Lamanite held amy official position in the Ancient American Church, but one important point of his preaching was that Samuel did not draw people away from the Lord's prophet but led people to the prophet Nephi who was at the head of their Church to repent and be baptized. 

President Joseph Smith, Jun., addressed the assembly and said, "the Melchizedek High Priesthood was no other than the Priesthood of the Son of God; that there are certain ordinances which belong to the Priesthood from which flow certain results; and the Presidents or Presidency are over the Church; and revelations of the mind and will of God to the Church are to come through the Presidency. This is the order of heaven." - History of the Church, Volume Two, page 477  

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Economic Solution: Safety Society System

When Joseph Smith and the Early Saints established the city of Kirkland, they needed to establish a banking system to provide credit and currency for their emerging economy. However, what was established was a traditional European-style, fractional-reserve bank that is inherently unstable. Because of the inherent instablility, the Kirkland Bank succumbed to market instabilities and soon failed. Following the direction of the US Constitution, a more equitable and Constitutional banking solution may be possible. The Safety Society Banking System addresses the income inequality starting with the Home Mortgage. 1. National Currency 2. Treasury creates money as needed 3. Local Non-profit Safety Society Bank approves loans 4. Simple-interest and fee-based loans granted 5. Debtors earn equity from day 1 6. Missed payments deducted from equity = instant reverse mortgage and mortgage insurance 7. No income tax 8. No inflation 9. Full Reserve banking. 100% Deposits stay at the bank and are never loaned out. 10. Money for new loans is created "on-demand" by US Treasury based on local loan approval and credit worthiness. 11. Communities or groups can qualify together for a hospital or park or aquarium or whatever if credit worthy. 12. Local Safety Societies cover costs with loan origination fees only and monthly loan service charge. 13. Fed Gov earns money via simple interest which constitutes a necessary fee which regulates money supply. 14. Repaid money is retired from circulation by the Treasury. 15. Loans only made for "real assets" not stock 16. Money is "backed" by the "real asset". 17.Value of currency = quantity and quality of human labor. Automation reduces costs. According to the equation MV = PG, inflation (P) is dependant on money supply (M). US Treasury controls money supply by only creating new money as it is nedeed (on demand). Inflation or deflation happems when there is too much money or not enough. It should always be more equensive to borrow than to save. With an equitable economic system, thrre will be a more equitable distribution of wealth. The Safety Society System is Free Market without a need for the capitalists although there may be a place for Mitt Romney style business venture capital. I like the idea of the ZCMI that was supported by the general public. The Safety Society System would not invest in business aspect but only the land and the building itself. Letting the people themselves be joint shareholders in the rest is a great idea in order to prevent the Walmart syndrome where Walmart has the power to dictate both the wholesale price and the suggested retail price.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Polygamy: Miraculous Unity of the Faith

Many Evangelical and Protestant have a hang-up with LDS historic practice of polygamy.  When people think of polygamy they immediately think of modern media depictions of the practice by a tiny corrupt FLDS group who chase adolescent boys out their isolated community and brainwash and coerce uneducated young girls into the the practice.  But instead of actually supporting these women and their children, FLDS wives collect government welfare as single mothers which is exactly the opposite of why polygamy was ever instituted in the first place.  Unfortunately, this hang-up prevents many from taking any type of serious investigation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the Book of Mormon. 

The Bible warns of false prophets in the Last Days. If there are false prophets, doesn't this suggest there would be true prophets? But the Bible also says that we can differentiate false and true prophets by their fruits.  What of the fruits of Joseph Smith?  What about Joseph Smith's and Brigham Young's practice of polygamy?  Was Joseph Smith's implementation of polygamy a clear example of bad fruit?  I'm sure reasonable people hear about Joseph Smith and polygamy and instantly roll their eyes and think its exactly the corrupt kind of thing that any corrupt and false, cult-leader, megalomaniac would do.  Jesus Christ via Joseph Smith declared in the Doctrine and Covenants:

"We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion." (Doctrine and Covenants, D&C 121:39)

Because polygamy can easily be abused and corrupted, does that make it inherently bad? What does the Bible have to say about polygamy?  Let's start with marriage. We read that God performed the first marriage in the paradisiacal Garden of Eden before the Fall saying that it was NOT good for man to be alone. Well if is not good for man to be alone I think we can assume its not good for women to be alone either.  And, in the garden we have the ideal union between one man and one woman. 

"And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.  ... Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." (Old Testament, Genesis, 2:18;24)

So what about polygyny specifically? Admittedly, polygyny is NOT the ideal.  But are there conditions where God has allowed, sanctioned or even commanded its practice?  What does the Bible say about it?  Abraham is the clearest example of polygyny with 2 wives who is considered the Founding Father of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic religions. Jacob had 4 wives and 12 sons. While Jews historically practiced polygamy; today, only Muslims still consider it acceptable but not recommended.  What does Islamic scripture say on the matter?

"If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice." (Qur'an, Sura 4, Ayah 3)

These Verses were revealed after the Battle of Uhud, in which many Muslim men were killed, leaving widows and orphans. Thus, many argue that these Verses have been revealed “because of God’s concern for the welfare of women and orphans who were left without husbands and fathers who died fighting for the Prophet and for Islam. It is a verse about compassion towards women and their children; it is not about men or their sexuality.”  (Wiki)

Back to the Bible.  What does Moses have to say about it?  Immediately after giving the Ten Commandments which forbids adultery, God instructs the men of Israel that  "If he take another wife for himself; her food, her clothing, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish" (Exodus 21:10)

Later, the Bible says, "If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated: .... But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his. (Old Testament, Deuteronomy, 21:15-16)

Deut 25:5-10 proscribes the practice of levirate marriage which obligated a man whose brother has left a widow without heir to marry her to continue his brother's name  in Israel. According to the Old Testament at least, multiple marriage was considered a realistic alternative in the case of famine, widowhood, or female infertility. (Wiki)

But what about the New Testament.  It seems that Rome together with some Early Christian writers condemned polygamy. But what does the New Testament say?  Paul discusses the care of widows with Timothy.  Paul specifically instructs younger widows to remarry and continue to "bear children".

"I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully." (New Testament, 1 Timothy 5:14)

But who would take on this responsibility to marry a younger widow already with or without children and take on the management of another household?  Consider the historical stigma against an already married woman with children.  Paul says that the married Elders and Sisters of the Church should receive them and support them.  Then Paul makes a direct reference to Deut. 25 and the commandment for Levirate marriage with "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn."  

"If any man or woman (married couple) that believeth have widows (younger), let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it (the Church) may relieve them that are widows indeed (eg older widows without family or prospects)." (New Testament, 1 Timothy, 5:16)

But what about Paul's instruction that among the qualifications of a Bishop in Titus 1:6 and Timothy 3:2, that he be the husband of one wife?  The word "one" in Greek is "mia" not "eva" which is more correctly interpreted as "man of the first wife" which is not talking about number of wives but is talking about a man who has never been divorced and is still married to his first wife. But even if you disagree, the alternate interpretation itself suggests polygamy was in common practice and would only exclude one from being the Bishop but not an Elder.

However, the most important point here is like the Qur'an, Paul's instructions are about compassion towards women and their children; caring for the fatherless and the widow; and not about men or their sexuality.   Remember that in James 1:27, pure religion is all about caring for the fatherless and the widow and keeping ourselves unspotted from the world. 

By the way, what does the Book of Mormon say about polygamy?  Despite the polygamy of Abraham, Jacob and King David and others, Monogamy is the ideal and polygamy is forbidden in the Book of Mormon and only allowable if the Lord commands it.

"Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old. Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none; For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts. ... For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things." (Book of Mormon, Jacob 2:26-30)

When it comes to Early LDS Church practice of polygamy; what was the intent and the outcome?  Whether the Church leaders knew it or not, God knew the LDS Church and His saints would soon be cast out of their city of Nauvoo, Illinois at gunpoint and forced to flee the United States of America to settle the wastelands of the Great Salt Lake Valley. The LDS Church with 70,000 people left all civilization in America and Europe to settle a valley of complete desolation surrounding a dead salt sea.  There was no WIC or Medicaid, or Social Security or Disability back then.  If you were a newly immigrated young woman with children and without family in frontier Utah, you didn't stand a chance.  

But, according to James 1:27, welfare is the business of the Church of Christ and polygyny was ONLY instituted as a calling and assignment to those who were willing, worthy and capable to care for the fatherless and the widow.  My wife Ruth Emily Cornish comes from polygamist ancestry on both her maternal and paternal sides.  Pure Christian  Charity was the motivation behind their initially reluctant acceptance and faithful practice of polygamy and great spiritual and temporal prosperity was their reward.

So, if polygamy was commanded by God why did the LDS Church cave to pressure and abandon polygamy?  The real question is why Christian Americans caved to allowing the US Congress to pass the illegal Edmonds-Tucker Act which the Federal Supreme Court later ruled to be constitutional despite knowing the 1st Amendment of the Bill of Rights strictly forbids the Federal Congress from making any laws with regard to religion or its practice?  Marriage is a practice of religion and off-limits to the Federal Government.  But this was the first of many subsequent rulings that have slowly eroded away the rights reserved in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. 

Nevertheless, why did the LDS Church cave?  Read Official Declaration 1 in the Doctrine and Covenants for yourself.   1. Monogamy is the ideal. 2. Polygamy was no longer absolutely necessary as a welfare mechanism and 3. the Church leaders followed the direction of Jesus Christ and inspiration of the Holy Ghost to act (as Peter's denial) to preserve the keys, authority, and function of the Church.  The Federal Government was ready and able to seize all church property, arrest all church leaders, and shut down all Temples. Instead, the Church, in unity, followed the prophet and took great pains to comply with the new law of the land and we were blessed with great spiritual and temporal prosperity.

Maybe some would have preferred a showdown.  They seek for a sign.  They would have preferred to see the prophets of God surrounded by the armies of Satan and watched entertained as the Earth shook, plagues were unleashed, and fire came from heaven to consume our enemies.  One day those signs will come.  But the bigger miracle was to see the Latter-day Saints act with unity to follow the Lord and His prophet and avoid conflict and war.   Which is more of a miracle, for God to command the elements or for God the change the heart of a man or an entire nation?  Unity was the greater miracle.

"Husband of the first wife" vs. "Husband of one wife" comes down to these words being in the genitive case and not in the nominative case.

Genitive Case:1 Tim 3:2 "mia gynaikos" = "of the first wife"John 20:19 "mia sabbaton" = "first of the week"

Nominative Case: John 10:16 "mia poimne heis poimen" = "one fold with one shepherd"
Eph 4:5 "heis Kyrios, mia pistis, hen baptisma" = "one Lord, one faith, one baptism"

Polygamy was illegal in the Roman Empire and the Jews were terribly persecuted for practicing polygamy. Yet, at the same time, Roman society accepted adultery, fornication, homosexuality, divorce, concubinage, and prostitution. Doesn't sound too different from today's morality.  You can cheat all can get away with but you can't, with full adult consent, take on the responsibility and fully support two households.  Not the ideal situation but maybe better than the alternatives in difficult circumstances.

Again, the miracle was the unity of the LDS Church, despite the great personal sacrifice, in following the Lord's prophet when the Lord commanded to practice polygamy and then commanded to discontinue its practice. The LDS Church was unified except for a small handful.

Was there the same kind of miraculous unity in the Catholic Church following the Council of Nicea or in the Presbyterian Church when it was decided to ordain women to the priesthood?

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Marks of Adversity

A young woman at Youth Conference Q&A asked the question "why did Christ retain the marks of the crucifixion". Among many good answers was primarily to testify that Jesus Christ is the Messiah who was lifted up on the cross.  Second, the marks testify of the healing power of the Atonement. 

I think some religions get what they call the "stigmata" mixed up.  Christ's marks were completely healed and not like lifting a bandaid to reveal a festering, bleeding wound that hasn't healed.  The marks of Christ are, too often depicted grotestly in the media instead of being a faint scar like a soldier or adventurer might show before telling you their tale of heroism and bravery.

But there may be an important point of personal application here. Every one of us carry the marks of adversity with us, even after we have been healed.  We were fortunate to have Sis. Dawn Armstrong from the " Meet the Mormons" movie as a guest speaker.  Sis. Armstrong shared with the group the marks of adversity she carries and testified of the healing power of Christ's Atonement in her life.  

However, we need to be careful how we share past adversity and especially, as a general rule, not share past sins.  If we are not truely repentant and haven't truely been healed, then our sharing may sound more like glorifying in our past wickedness instead of glorifying in the redemptive power of Christ.  And instead of showing the faint scar of past adversity, we may still have an unresolved  wound that needs the Bishop's and the Savior's attention.