Thursday, April 14, 2016

Godly Sorrow: The Proper Role of Guilt, Remorse, and Regret in the Gospel Message

The Church of Jesus Christ testifies to the world that the Church of Christ experienced a falling away or apostasy from the truth necessitating a later restoration. Part of the Apostasy and Restoration of the truth involved the overall message and tone of the message. 

The Church of Jesus Christ teaches the good news and glad tidings of the gospel of Jesus Christ which are the "conditions of repentance".  Why does the true gospel of Christ emphasize repentance over mercy or even judgement?  Because Christ specifically has instructed us to do just that. 

Jesus Christ instructed Joseph Smith from the earliest days of the Church in the Doctrine and Covenants: 

"Say nothing but repentance unto this generation; keep my commandments, and assist to bring forth my work, according to my commandments, and you shall be blessed." (Doctrine and Covenants, D&C 6:9)

I have an Evangelical friend who disagrees with the LDS Church emphasis  on repentance and obedience.  My friend had known an ex-Mormon who was critical of LDS standards and even the LDS Temple labeling them tools of exclusion which only served to divide people instead of unifying people together.  

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." (New Testament, Matthew, 10:34)

Many ex-LDS choose not to live up to the expectations of God, they become tired of feeling guilty, and instead of repenting, they choose to leave.  Yet, while some leave the Church, many can't leave it alone.  Disgruntled ex-members criticize the Church and the House of God for its standards.  They Narcissistically blame the standards and commandments of God for excluding them instead of acknowledging their own willful refusal to even strive to live them.  Yes, it can be hard to live the standards of the Church, but we know from long experience that in the long run the consequences of not living Gods standards is much harder than any short-term sacrifice required to obey and live by them.

The Light of Christ is given to everyone and teaches us right from wrong.  The Light of Christ is our conscience. When we do right we feel good.  But when we do wrong we naturally feel guilty.  The guilt, remorse, and regret is worse when we know and have been given a testimony of the expectations that God has for us and we willfully choose to disregard or even rebel against them.  Too often, many who feel guilt try to escape and drown out their guilty conscience through loud music and substance abuse instead of seeking help to repent and overcome their natural weaknesses.

My friend believes a pure message of unconditional love, acceptance, grace and mercy of Christ will on its own inspire and empower conversion, good works, righteousness and devotion. Many feel that if we exclusively teach that Christ unconditionally loves and accepts us as we are, that that message of mercy and grace alone will empower righteousness and holiness.  

But what about justice?  What about judgement, correction and reproof? Isn't the true God also a God of perfect justice?  Is the God of the New Testament somehow a different God than the God of the Old Testsment?  The Book of Mormon prophets ask, "can mercy rob justice".  Is there a place for discipline, judgement, correction or reproof in the gospel of Christ. Getting to the point, is there a place for guilt and sorrow in the gospel of Christ? Let's turn to the scriptures and see what they have to say. Paul teaches Timothy:

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." (New Testament, 2 Timothy 3:16-17)

According to the New Testament, Paul is very clear that scripture is meant to be used for reproof, correction as well as instruction.  Yes, reproof and correction should be given in a spirit of love but reproof isn't all chocolates and daisies. 

The Book of Mormon discusses this matter as one of its major themes. The Book of Mormon discusses the role of the priesthood administering the gospel of Christ according to the "Holy Order of God" versus false preachers and false religions who practice priestcraft and preach a "popular" doctrine. 

False priests who preach for money have an inherent conflict if interest and tend to want to preach a positive, mercy and grace-only message lest they offend any of their adherants and lose revenue. The Book of Mormon, on the other hand, teaches that the true order or of the priesthood teaches mercy when it is appropriate but also teaches repentance when necessary. 

The false priests of the wicked King Noah challenge the ancient American prophet Abinidi, (who they soon will kill), for his warning message of repentance and judgement. The false priests quote Isaiah and claim that the true gospel has no place for Abinidi's warning voice, and negative tone. The wicked priests ask Abinadi to explain how his message firs with the spirit of Isaiah's words:

"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!" (Old Testament, Isaiah 52:7)

Abinadi responded that Christ himself taught such un unpopular doctrine that, quoting from Isaiah, He would be "despised of men" and brought like a "lamb to the slaughter."  

"He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb so he opened not his mouth."(Book of Mormon, Mosiah, 14:3-7)

Also, that through the Atonement of Christ we will be brought before God to be judged weather we had accepted the outstretched arms of mercy and repented of our iniquities or chosen to remain in our sins.  Only those who repented would be saved.

"And now, ought ye not to tremble and repent of your sins, and remember that only in and through Christ ye can be saved?" (Book of Mormon, Mosiah, 16:13). 

The ancient American prophet Jacob comments how he would have liked to have been using the pleasing word of God to bind up and soothe the brokenhearted but was constrained by duty to first use the word of God to enlarge some wounds first because of the people's sins. 

"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)

Listen to the example of Nephi dealing with his rebellous brothers Laman amd Lemuel. 

"And it came to pass that I said unto them (Laman and Lemuel) that I knew that I had spoken hard things against the wicked, according to the truth; and the righteous have I justified, and testified that they should be lifted up at the last day; wherefore, the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center. And now my brethren, if ye were righteous and were willing to hearken to the truth, and give heed unto it, that ye might walk uprightly before God, then ye would not murmur because of the truth, and say: Thou speakest hard things against us.  And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did exhort my brethren, with all diligence, to keep the commandments of the Lord.  And it came to pass that they did humble themselves before the Lord; insomuch that I had joy and great hopes of them, that they would walk in the paths of righteousness." (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 16:2-5)

Notice that after reproving his brothers with sharpness or increased clarity, Nephi ahowed them an increased amount of love and concern. This is exactly whatthe  Lord taught Joseph Smith in the Doctrine and Covenants.

"Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;" (Doctrine and Covenants, D&C 121:43)

Another ancient American prophet, Alma,  who was a priest of wicked King Noah and was converted by Abinidi's message, always taught repentance but wasn't always preaching doom and gloom. 

After reproving and chastising the people of the Church in Zarahemla, Alma had a more upbeat message for the Church in the city of Gideon.

"And behold, I have come having great hopes and much desire that I should find that ye.... were not in the awful dilemma that our brethren were in at Zarahemla.... and my soul doth exceedingly rejoice, because of the exceeding diligence and heed which ye have given unto my word. And now, may the peace of God rest upon you, and upon your houses and lands, and upon your flocks and herds, and all that you possess, your women and your children, according to your faith and good works, from this time forth and forever."
(Book of Mormon, Alma 7:3,26-27)

In another example Mormon tells his son Moroni the difficulty he had trying to persuade his fellow Nephites to repent and be faithful to God.  Mormon uses a combination of sharpness and love but the Nephites began to be past feeling. 

"Behold, I am laboring with them continually; and when I speak the word of God with sharpness they tremble and anger against me; and when I use no sharpness they harden their hearts against it; wherefore, I fear lest the Spirit of the Lord hath ceased striving with them." (Book of Mormon, Moroni 9:4)

When it comes to certain principles of the gospel, it is sometimes not a matter of right and wrong but two wrongs and a right.   Satan likes to take people to the extremes to the right and to the left while the truth of God is straight down the middle.  Aristotle, a Greek philosopher, calls this the "golden mean". 

"For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round." (Doctrine and Covenants, D&C 3:2)

When it comes to preaching the good word of God we have some Christian denominations who err on the side of too much "hell, fire, and brimstone" on one hand while other evangelical sects teach an exclusive message of so-called "greasy grace" on the other.  The LDS message fits perfectly between these extremes and was encapsulated by President Gordon B. Hinkley's charge to continually "try a little harder to be a little better". The message of repentance through the atonement, grace and power of Jesus Christ perfectly satisfies the demands of both justice and mercy.

The Apostle Paul in the New Testament tells Timothy the reason why the Church needs to peach repentance to make us "useful vessels fit for the Masters use".

"Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. ... If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work." (New Testament, 2 Timothy 2:19,21)

So, coming back to the original question, Is there a place for guilt in the gospel of Jesus Christ? Yes, appropriate guilt,  regret, and remorse referred to by Paul as "godly sorrow" leads to repentance. 

"For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death." (New Testament, 2 Corinthians 7:10)

However, the extremes to the right and left of appropriate guilt must be avoided.  To one extreme the guilt or sorrow of the world is, like Cain, only regret that we got caught and got in trouble.  Cain was not sad or sorry about killing his brother Able but only resented God's punishment.  On the second extreme, we need not feel shame or self-loathing.  Guilt is a correct negative emotion that what we have done is wrong.  Shame is the wrong thinking that we are worthless.  Christ has always taught we should hate the sin but love the sinner, and that especially applies to ourselves. 

When it comes to guilt, remorse, and regret, this does not mean blame, shaming, ostracizing, backbiting, and gossip.  We all are sinners, and all have a very many things in our lives which we deeply regret and even feel embarrassed about.  We don't need to heap blame on our fellow brothers and sisters. Instead, what we do in the Church of Jesus Christ is simply teach, uphold and defend the standards of the Church.  We teach each other the ideal of how we are to act, even if we may be struggling to live some of the standards ourselves.  

As we learn what God expects of us, our conscience and the Holy Ghost will work upon our hearts to repent.  We should trust that as we simply teach the standards, the Light of Christ itself and the Holy Ghost Himself will do the work needed upon our hearts without any extra assistance on our part.  Our role should be not to heap more guilt upon each other; to not gossip or spread news of others sins to others even if true.  Instead, we are to encourage each other to confess our sins to the Bishop and strengthen and encourage each other in keeping God's standard. 

Elder Bruce D. Porter reminds us that "guilt like pain is good and tells us when something is wrong."  Imagine if wehad appendicitis but didn't experience any pain.  We wouldn't know there was something wrong until it was too late.  Adam experienced guilt in the garden of Eden hiding himself after eating from the tree of knowledge. 

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Sunday Afternoon April 2016

Elder Hales-  Light of Christ vs. Holy Ghost. Light of Christ helps us distinguish right and wrong.  Holy Ghost helps us receive personal revelation. Study it out and bring a decision to Him in prayer.  Testifies of the Savior. Comforts and remits our sins.  Only the prophet receives revelation for the Church.  The Lord guides the Church using the same sacred pattern of revelation. 

Elder Gong- Remembering and forgetting are part of life and eternity. Confidence in covenants, recognize hand, trusting in assurance.  Forgive and don't take offense. We are always welcome home.  Take the sacrament.  Pray always, serve, care for the poor. Remember Christ in all times, places, circumstances.

Elder Kearon- Refugees.  We are all refugees. Christ was a refugee fleeing Israel to Egypt. LDS were refugees in our history.  This is not about political immigration policies but about people escaping war that they had nothing to do with.  Participate in relief efforts.   Do something local and help refugees return to self reliance. Stakes of Zion are to be a refuge.  What we have endured doesn't define who we are. 

Elder Oaks- We must face opposition. We could not act unless enticed by both sides. Agency requires opposition.  Satan wanted to destroy agency and steal Gods glory. All adversity will give us experience and be for our good.  Life is not supposed to be easy or consistently pleasant. This is the real test to see if we will be endure valiantly and do what is best. Their is no loyal opposition in the kingdom. Questions are honored but not opposition.  Judge Joseph Smith by fruits not every perceived action. God does not prevent all catastrophes. 

Elder Richards-  We need the temple more than anything else.  The temple arms us with righteousness, power and great glory.  Temple work is for all ages. Encourage youth to serve before and after their missions.  Communion of angels will be added from time to time.  Come often and with family and for family.  We are those arrayed in white serving in the temple. 

Elder Johnson-  Resurrection is the greatest event of all time.  Even for the righteous, death is captivity.  All physical challenges will end. Cancer has already been cured and is not beyond the power of God to overcome via the resurrection. Jesus Christ lives and because of Him we will all live again.

Elder Holland- Your attention is fixed on us during this conference but we are fixed on you.  We love you wherever you are in the world.  You are the miracle.  Hold fast to the Spirit we have felt here.  Tomorrow threatens to cause us to forget. In the very hour God was telling Moses to make no graven images, Israel was fashioning the golden calf.  After the Mount of Transfiguration the disciples were squabbling.  "Oh faithless generation". General Conference is to give hope not discouragement.  We can improve, Satan cannot. Continue to seek and to strive. Keep trying. Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow the Lord will perform wonders among you.

Sunday Morning April 2016

President Monson: 4 new temples. Now 150. Door of history turns on small hinges and so do our lives.  Small decisions determine whether we reach our eternal goals. We know where we want to go and our decisions do matter.  Repentance allows us to correct our path. Harder right instead of easier wrong.  Choose Christ. 

Sis. Oscarson: Do we really believe it? "Families are Forever" comforts us even when facing death of a child. Gives us peace in crisis. Teachings are more than just words. The LDS Church is more than just a social club or nice system to teach children. Get the gospel from our heads into our hearts.  We already have the truth, we don't need to go searching for it but need to stay in the boat.

Bishop Waddell: Do we sometimes have a hard time thinking of Jesus? How to keep our thoughts focused on the Savior and have His peace: Learn, Listen, Walk.  Attend the temple.  Children who have died but are born in the covenant are not lost but ours forever. Stand with the prophets and don't just taste the fruit of the Tree of Life but continually feast upon it and ignore the mockers that seek to destroy our peace.  Walk with Christ to gethsemane and repent.

Elder Christofferson: LDS believe in Fatherhood who put their families first, protect and preside in love and righteousness.  Society needs to create fathers.  Fathers have a divine origin. Fathers  show great love by laboring daily for the support of their families. read scriptures and acquaint children with the voice of the Lord. Fathers provide discipline and correction without abuse.  Fathers are breadwinners.  Media should depict noble fathers and not buffoons. Pray for and with your children.

Elder Cook: Temple increases our testimony of Christ.   Requirements of the temple are simple.  Blessings of the temple determine our exaltation. God is no respecter of persons. There is no rank in the temple.  Covenants are eternal and begin when you "see yourself in the temple".   Temple is the great symbol of our faith and a refuge.

President Uchtdorf: Dresden the jewel-box that was built in 1000 years was destroyed in 1 day during WW2.  Dark stones in the rebuilt Freuenkirche are originals.  70 years later it has been restored and rebuilt. New life from ashes. God can rebuilt and restore us.  God will rescue His sheep because He loves His sheep.  It matters not why or how the sheep became lost. God will not force us to be rescued against our will.  We must turn unto Him. Obedience is liberating path to exaltation.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Priesthood April 2016

Elder Nelson: Divine role as men of God. Willing to be humble and let go of old hurts and habits.  To submit to priesthood leaders and hold the priesthood.  Authority without power due to sin. Waste time instead of bare the power of God to bless others. Only if we have paid the price will be be enabled to bless and protect and heal one day and for eternity. Pray for more power. serve, cherish wife. Priesthood can calm the earthquakes in our own homes. 

Elder Owen: What it means to lead and to follow.  Christ was the greatest leader and follower. Christ followed His Father with humility, meekness, persuasion, patience, faith and love. Leadership is a matter of discipleship.  Must invite all to come unto Christ.

President Uchtdorf: Everything in todays material world seems disposable or upgradable.   Family, marriage, eternal blessing cannot be replaced with the modern. Families are the order of heaven. Families require intentional work. Remember integrity and loyalty and covenants. Be happy.  Choose happiness.  Charity vs. Pride.

President Eyring: Celestial marriage is our purpose.  Why should this matter to young and old. The welfare of family should come first at all times. Exhort by baring testimony is never offensive.  Make marriage a priority.

President Monson: We bare the priesthood dependent upon righteousness.  Stand in holy places and remember who you are. Story of airman downed in the Pacific: "You have the priesthood, command the vessel to pick you up." Be ready to bless others. 

Saturday Afternoon April 2016:

Elder Rasband: Restoration began with youth asking questions.  Questions are welcome, opposition is not.  There is no loyal opposition. Questions demonstrate desire to learn and pressing forward with faith.  Leaders we sustain warn us of dangers.  Are we choosing to stand on the Lords side with His leaders?  The Lord reaches out to save us through others (leaders and family). 

Elder Andersen:  The Church teaches the ideal family but we should be sensitive to children's diverse circumstances. We can still teach eternal families to all children.  Their spiritual dna is perfect. Help youth feel included (outside the fence) through other youth.

Elder Arnold: Grandparents can rescue grandchildren and others.  Don't delay in the rescue. Never give up. 

Elder Mazzagardi: Why did the restoration happen in America?  God had brought people from all over with varied beliefs but love of their family for the construction of the Erie Canal.  Restoration promised eternal families. 

Elder Bednar:  How do we retain a continual remission of sins?  Being born again comes through ordinances. Holy Ghost is a sanctifier.  In the ordinances, the power of godliness is manifest. It the reception of the Holy Ghost that remits sins (not the water). Continually partaking of the sacrament will help us always have the Spirit with us.  Sacrament is a renewal of both baptism and confirmation.

Elder Ballard: Councils are the Lords way. Family councils will protect from worldliness. 1. General 2. Executive 3. Limited 4. One-on-one.  Turn off electronics.  Doesn't need formality. The walls of our home alone no longer protect our family relationships.  Need prayer and councils.  

Saturday Morning April 2016

Pres. Eyring: Feel the Saviors Love?  Pray, share gospel by the spirit of truth, bare testimony, sing, serve.

Sis. Durham: What do we do when we feel like we are drowning?  Kick off weight of the world.  Covenant at baptism, and receive the Holy Ghost.  Eli and Samuel: help children feel and recognize Spirit.

Elder Hallstrom: God is our Heavenly Father. We are spirit children of Our Heavenly Father.  Knowing who we are helps us make and keep covenants. Child of God is our principle identity. "You can have what you want or you can have better".  World causes us to forget who we are.

Elder Stevenson: Lost the keys.  Car was gassed and battery charged.  Without keys the car is just glass and metal.  Without the restoration, we would be locked out of the divine vehicle of Christ's Church.  Keys authorize. 

Elder Duncan:  We live in a fallen world. Others can hurt us. Forgiveness is protection. Let God judge. He will repay. Let God give us peace. God will compensate us for every loss. See others as God does.  To forgive is not to condone. We don't have to be a victim twice, we can forgive.

Elder Snow: Hymns, worship though song. Be thou humble.  God will show us our weakness.  Become as a little child.  Be humble without being compelled.  Remember our dependance of the Lord through sincere prayer.

Elder Renlund: Greater the distance between the giver and receiver produces greater entitlement.  Family proximity is best.  The further we distance ourselves from God, the more entitled we feel that we deserve grace and that God fix things right now.  The closer to God the more humble and thankful. The direction we face is more important than absolute distance. God delights in repentant sinner more than the prideful self-righteous. Life is unfair.  God will ultimately give all of us more than we deserve and make up to us all our losses.