Saturday, January 20, 2018

Watch and Pray

Mark 13:33 Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.

Jesus Christ foretold that His Second Coming would be preceeded by a period of Tribulation and natural disasters. Accordingly, He called for followers to “watch and pray”.  Watch, in this context, means to ‘actively prepare for’ and not just ‘look out for’ without doing anything. Jesus Christ wanted His disciples to adopt an attitude and practice of consistent self-reliance and preparedness. 

James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

Some criticize Christians for their preparedness efforts claiming that many generations have come and gone always looking for the End of the World which has never come. In the critics mind, this so-called apocalyptic outlook is not only a waste of time and resources but also pathologic and even dangerous.   Hollywood productions like “Doomsday Preppers” seeks to discredit preparedness by taking things to the far extreme.  These reality TV shows make preparedness appear unattainable, silly, and even mentally unstable. 

Matt 24:29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:

The commandment to “watch” or “be prepared” is not about trying to predict the End of the World.  If we could predict the exact timing of the Lord’s Second Coming, then we wouldn’t need to be prepared at all.  We could just procrastinate until the day before and then stock up at the last minute.  But Christ’s commandment is teaching the exact opposite of procrastination. 

The Law of Moses taught a similar principle.  Every year the Jews and other tribes of the House of Isreal were commanded to observe the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot).  This feast required that the family set up a hut or tent in their yard and eat and even sleep out in their “sukkah” for a week. I’m sure this religious requirement to camp seemed strange to foreigners.  What was it’s purpose?

In addition to learning obedience, humility, gratitude by remembering how God led Israel in the desert for 40 years before entering into the land of Israel, the purpose of the Feast of Tabernacles also helped Israel look forward.  When society becomes sufficiently corrupt, God has eventually called His people to come out of and flee Babylon.  If God were to relocate His people again, how could he expect to get much compliance if “camping” weren’t a thing.  So, in a very practical way, observing the Feast of Sukkot served to preserve these skills among His people and psychologically prepare them.  So, when Lehi and others were later called to flee Jerusalem prior to the Babylonian conquest, the way had already been prepared for them to accomplish the thing which the Lord had commandment them (1 Ne 3:7).  The Lord showed His example of perfect preparedness by commanding Israel to be prepared. 

We take it for granted that camping is still a thing in our western culture.  Many westerners camp for fun.  In third-world countries, camping is daily life.  But, here in the comfortable first-world, camping might just as easily not have been a thing. But, thanks to our Judeo-Christian heritage (I think), Walmarts and numerous sporting goods stores carry an array of camping and outdoor equipment.

However, when it comes to the the coming Tribulation, its gonna take a bit more than a tent and few sleeping bags to make it.  God intends that a good number of His best people to survive (remnant).  A clensing of the Earth will one day occur, and Christ is teaching that a bit of sensible preparation will be enough to “abide the day”.  That faithful remnant will then be empowered to rebuild and eventually inherit a paradisiacal Earth. This is a test. 

Modern prophets have called all true believers to adopt a custom of preparedness and keep a personal supply of food, water, fuel, and other essentials.  Latter-day Apostles and Prophets have clarified that believers should store food and water and not guns and ammunition. God’s elect will instead seek to gather into the Stakes of Zion as a refuge and protection from the coming storm. All those who fail to gather are prophesied to be at war with one another. 

D&C 45:68 And it shall come to pass among the wicked, that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety.
D&C 115:6 And that the gathering together upon the land of Zion, and upon her stakes, may be for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth.

I remember talking about preparedness with a Christian neighbor who was comvinced that a rapture of thecrighteous would occur before any Tribulation so no preparation was necessary.  In her mind, preparation was not trusting in the promises of God.  Sad, that in many so-called mainstream Christian religions, doing nothing equals faith.  But it seems clear in scripture that our triumphant reunion with Jesus Christ will occur after the Tribulation and only the prepared will be empowered though their faith and by their works to stand and abide the day.

D&C 45:57 For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived--verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day. (doers of the word are not deceived)

So, what are we do say if Christ doesn’t return in our lifetime?  Was all our preparation in vain? I say, “No way!”  Just like it wasn’t vain for the Jews to continually observe the Feast of Tabernacles which the prophet Zechariah prophesied all nations would be required to observe the Feast of Sukkot in the Last Days (Zech 14:16).  Being prepared gives peace of mind, hope, and assurance through faith that the Day of the Lord, whenever it comes, will be great and not terrible.  

D&C 38:30 but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.

Adopting a balanced attitute and practice of preparedness preserves preparedness as part of our culture.  Believers are still able to easily purchase bulk grain and other commodities. Christians learn how to grind and use storage wheat as well as how to sew and mend clothing.  Gardening and canning supplies are relatively cheap and available at the big box stores. Finally, adopting an attitude and practice of self-reliance, provident living, and preparedness passes down a legacy of faith to future generations which not only benefit us in our day with an attitude of humility and thanksgiving but also will eventually bless a future posterity. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

LDS Women and Priesthood

A patient family member, after learning that I am LDS (Mormon), mentioned that her daughter had interviewed a local LDS bishop as part of a school project.  The family member told me that her daughter asked about women and priesthood.  The family member wasn’t really asking a question, and I didn’t have the time nor circumstance to respond.  But if I had the opportunity, I might have shared some of the following:

Janitor vs. Principal
LDS Leadership positions are primarily janitorial in nature. Priesthood responsibilities reserved for males literally and figuratively involve mostly accounting and “taking-out-the-garbage”-type duties.  LDS leaders operate more like janitors as opposed to principals.  Like a janitor, our priesthood leaders are said to have keys. Janitors typically possess massive key rings with numerous keys, allowing them to keep every part of a building clean and maintained.  LDS Leaders serve as spiritual janitors in our religion.  Jesus Christ is our Principal.

Preacher vs. Bishop
LDS Bishops are not “preachers”. Most LDS priesthood positions are unpaid and involve more janitorial, procedural and accounting tasks. LDS Bishops are not paid to give weekly sermons.  In the Mormon Church, weekly sermons, gospel doctrine, and Sunday School classes are given by both women and men. 

Women serve as presidents and in leadership positions over the Church’s children, youth, and women’s organizations.  Female presidents, presidencies, boards, and councils function at the local, regional, and global levels.  Women also serve in both volunteer and paid church education, and professional positions. Couples are called together and serve together as humanitarian, service, temple, and missionary positions.  The highest positions of Temple President, Mission President,  Seventy, Apostle, and Prophet are callings extended to and involve both a husband with his wife. The wife may travel with her husband and will routinely teach and speak.  In the case of a mission president or temple president, the wife has specific and unique duties (e.g. Temple Matron).

Equal Blessings
Possessing and fulfilling an LDS leadership position is a great blessing to those who are called.  However, being a bishop doesn’t get you early into LDS heaven, or grant any extra heavenly blessings more than any other calling.  Christ likened his Church to His body and taught that every part was important and no part should think itself more important than another (1 Cor 12:12).  LDS Men and women may have different jobs in the kingdom but receive the same spiritual blessings now and eternal rewards later.

Administer vs. Minister
Administration involves planning, accounting, and janitorial tasks while ministering involves the more inspired  work of succoring the needy, sick and afflicted and bringing souls unto Jesus Christ. Women are naturally more given to and gifted in ministering than men. So, the LDS Church doesn’t waste valuable time or resources by calling our women to managerial positions when there are precious souls to nurture, minister to, and save. LDS keep our women on the front lines in this spiritual battle and give the desk jobs to the men.  On the other hand, I believe God reserves administration duties for men with the intent that men will minister more as they administer. 

Women demonstrate that they can administer as well as and even better than men.  LDS women’s organizations such as the Relief Society is, without exception, much better run than any LDS men’s organization.  Part of God’s plan to preserve leadership positions for men is likely just to save something for men to do so men feel needed. Men in the Church, like in the home, tend to “rise to the task” and respond well when they think they are needed.  Unfortunately, if men think that they are not needed, the opposite is true, and men tend to withdraw. 

Authority vs. Influence
What women really want, expect, and deserve is equal power in the Church of Jesus Christ.  Women rightly desire power to effect change, to heal souls, and to make a difference. But having authority isn’t the only path to power.  Anyone, man or women, could wield great power in Christ’s Church through their righteous influence.  

The same is true of the President of the United States. Often it is his economic and  political advisors and special interests through lobbying and political donations  that can exhibit more power to shape policy through their influence than his position of authority.  My wife and I both have had callings  of low authority/high influence where we both felt like we “ran the ward” without being the bishop (mine: activities chair in BYU single’s ward; Ruth’s: visiting teaching coordinator). 

LDS Women are exerting an even greater influence on the local, regional, and global level as they participate in youth, ward, stake, and general leadership councils.  The Church has recently looked for ways to involve more women in more ways in church decision and its policy making process.  We already have been greatly blessed and benefited from these changes.

Umbrella and Door Holding
If you prefer a man to hold open a door, or hold the umbrella during a rainstorm, it shouldn’t be too difficult to understand why a large majority of LDS women feel at peace with the role differences in God’s kingdom. Ultimately, Elder Bednar taught, that it is unknown why God choose men to be holders of the priesthood at this time.  The Atonement of Christ is like an  umbrella that shields us from the rain. The umbrella shaft is like the priesthood. You don’t have to be holding the umbrella to be shielded by the rain.  In fact, a sinful male leader can be holding the umbrella and still get soaked if he fails to stand under its protection. 

The scriptures report that at certain times God determined priesthood be given only to the oldest son, or to only a specific tribe. In the Last Days, God as selected all worthy males to exercise it.  It is likely, in the future and in heaven, that men and women’s roles in the priesthood will be even more equal like they are in temples. However, we wait on God and revelation to direct any changes. Knowing that our current arrangement is God’s will for now, LDS women joyfully serve, minister, teach, preach, exhort, minister and administer along-side men and with their husbands in God’s kingdom.  LDS Women don’t mind if worthy LDS males are being called to “hold the spiritual door” open for them. 

Message From New First Presidency

After the passing of President Thomas S. Monson, a new First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ is constituted, comprising the most senior apostle which is Russell M. Nelson and counselors Presidents Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring. 

“Endowed with power in a house of the Lord, sealed as families—faithful to covenants made in a temple... Your worship in the temple and your service there for your ancestors will bless you with increased personal revelation and peace and will fortify your commitment to stay on the covenant path,” 

Keep on the covenant path, Your commitment to follow the Savior by making covenants with Him and then keeping those covenants will open the door to every spiritual blessing and privilege available to women, men, and children everywhere,” 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Kirtland, Missouri, Nauvoo

D&C 1:25-26 And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known;  And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed;

The history of persecution, injustice, and expulsion of the early Latter-day Saints from Ohio (Kirtland), Missouri, and Illinois (Nauvoo) can teach us profound lessons. It’s very important we remember the reason’s for our failures so that we remain unified with regard to the remedies. 

Books on early Mormon history like to emphasize the financial and banking failures in Kirtland, the politics of slavery and abolitionism in Missouri, and polygamy in Nauvoo. However, these connections may lead readers to the wrong conclusion. 

Yes, the politics of slavery was an issue of the day, but it is not why the Lord says the Saints failed in Missouri.  D&C 101 says the reason for the Saints failure in Missouri was not building a temple. And that gets into a much more fruitful discussion about how and why building a temple, temple work, and temple covenants would have prevented the Missouri expulsion and again in Illinois (Saints already expelled before Nauvoo temple was officially dedicated).  This also explains why Brigham Young was so committed to building temples in Utah. 

“How future generations will view us with regard to facing the evil of our day?  Prophets have warned that we will be judged and reponsible for not preserving the freedoms secured by the Constitution. And Moroni does, call for us to be “awake” to our awful situation.  My conclusion is, that while future historians may criticize our current blindness while our country unravels, our awakness or blindness is not necessarily the key issue. Like Kirtland, Missouri, Illinois, our preservation rests upon upholding our “watchman upon the tower”. “standing in holy places”, and “bring forth fruit and works meet for the kingdom”. 

D&C 98:16 Therefore, renounce war and proclaim peace, and seek diligently to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers, and the hearts of the fathers to the children;

Sunday, January 07, 2018

President Thomas S. Monson

President Thomas S. Monson was the 16th president and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who passed away on Jan 2, 2018. I was talking with a colleague about President Monson’s passing and I asked if he thought it was presumptuous for a person today to consider themselves or be considered a living prophet? 

I shared that I was grateful for a living prophet that would carry the message of the love of Christ, of selfless service to our neighbor and all people. I also appreciate the prophet “Proclamation on the Family” which in 1995 wasn’t considered as timely as it is today.  President Monson has served as an assistant to the First Presidency or councilor to past President’s Kimball, Benson, Hunter, and Hinkley. During that time and during his own presidency, President Monson and the other 12 Apostles have boldly testified of Christ in their testimony contained in the “the Living Christ”, defined and defended the family and the “Family Proclamation”, as well as warned against the plagues of pornography and debt. 

God has called prophets in our day who will continue to boldly testify of the divinity of Jesus Christ, uphold traditional family values, encourage Christian service, and calling the world to repentance and virtue.