Thursday, January 31, 2019

Funeral Talk

I was honored to know J-B- in the few years I have live here in Augusta and attended the Augusta Ward. Although I've lived in Augusta for, nearly 14 years; considering James age of 96, I will be considering myself a “Johnny-come-lately” for quite a while yet. It was immediately evident just how important James and little brother B- were to the Church here in Augusta. The Church of Jesus Christ here in Augusta has been and continues to be a great blessing and support for me, my wife, and 6 children, for which I owe J- and the B-'s a great debt of gratitude. It's easy to take for granted, that I can move my family away from Salt Lake City , UT (The capital of the Mormon Faith) and come to the beautiful garden city of Augusta, GA and enjoy the same spirit and community of faith that I did there. Much of that is thanks to stalwart Church members like James Black and many others in attendance today who built up the Church of Jesus Christ here, long before the Brosnahan's even conceived of living here.

When I first came to Augusta, my wife Ruth and I made an offer on our first house without even seeing it in person first. We were blessed to have contacted an amazing LDS couple here who told us that we absolutely had to move into a house that just came on the market down the street from them. This LDS couple checked the house out for us, sent us pictures, oversaw the inspection, and even helped us unload the truck and move in. The first time I physically laid eyes on my first home was after the closing. But whether it's finding trusted babysitters, house-sitters, or house-hunters; much of what I enjoy with regard to a faith community, and values community here is thanks to those who came before. If there had not been a faithful J- B-, there may never have been a M- and A- M-. The Church of Jesus Christ has and continues to be a great support and blessing to me and my family, and I publicly want to thank James, and the Black family for many lifetimes of faith, sacrifice, hard work, and devotion that made that possible.

"When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt 16:13-19)

Peter knew the true identity of Jesus, as the Son of God. But how were Peter's eye's opened? How did Peter know the truth while so many did not? Did he learn it from an institution, or in the process of earning an theological or divinity degree like as Pharisees or Sadducees? No, Peter like Christ was not a 'man of letters', but received his witness and testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ only from God Himself by the power of and through the operation of the Holy Ghost. As Paul would later wright to the Corinthians, “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” (1 Cor 12:3)

While on the Earth, Jesus Christ established His Church led globally by an organized hierarchy of apostles, prophets, and seventies. Also, Christ's Church was led locally by bishops (episcopate), elders (presbyters), and deacons (diaconos). Apostle, or 'apostolos' is a Greek work which means “one who is sent”. The apostles of Christ traveled the globe and wrote letters intended to encourage and keep the local congregations in the right way. Peter, James, John, like the other 12, as the heads of Christ's Church, clarified doctrine and and reproved sin and apostasy among the body of Christ. Accordingly, the true Church of Jesus Christ was not Episcopalian, or led by the bishops. It was not Presbyterian, or led by the elders. The original Church of Jesus Christ was apostolic, led by Christ Himself through His personally selected apostles and their divinely conferred apostolic keys.

But very early on, both the Jews and the Romans set out to destroy the newly founded Church of Christ. Notwithstanding the betrayal of Judas, and early martyrdom of James, the son of Zebedee; Christ continued to call apostles such as Matthias, Paul, and even Barnabas, to fill these vacancies, so that the keys of the apostleship would remain; so that the Church of Jesus Christ would continue to be led not only locally by bishops, and elders, but globally by His apostles and prophets (the oracles of God). Their authority would be conferred by prophecy and by the laying on of hands, and not by conferred by academia, by letters or by degrees.

When Christ revealed to Peter that the gates of hell should not prevail against His Church, He did not mean that His followers or his kingdom would not ever again temporarily be overcome. Paul warned the saints in Thesselonica, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day (meaning the Second Coming of Christ) shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;” (2 Thes 2:3).

Sadly, the Bible itself tells the tragic tale of man's history of continually falling away from the truth of God. Genesis begins with God establishing His truth and covenant with Adam and Eve. But it wasn't long until man fell away into waywardness necessitating the Great Flood. Then God reestablished His truth and covenant with Noah, and things went on okay for awhile until man descended again into corruption necessitating the confounding the languages at the tower of Babel. Again, God restored His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But it wasn't very long until the tribes of Israel had been enslaved in Egypt. God then raised up Moses, who delivered Israel from Egypt and restored them to their promised land in Canaan. But, it wasn't very many years until Israel had been lured away from the true God and was soon brought into captivity into Babylon. Then, God sent His very own son to personally restore the truth and covenant through Peter. However, not even sending God's own son would turn man's heart (collectively) away from our wickedness. Consequently, the entire Earth, in addition to so-called Christian Europe, fell into the Dark Ages.

In the parable of the wicked tenants, Christ related this exact parallel story of man's repeated failure. And that God, the householder would repeatedly send servants to his vineyard to take delivery of the fruit but who instead would be run off and killed by the tenants. Finally Christ, relates that God, the householder would “[send] unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” (Matt 21:37-43)

Jesus Christ's reference to a stone which shall fall upon and grind the wicked husbandman to powder is referencing Himself, as well as referencing a very important prophecy of Daniel who foretells the coming of Christ's Millennial kingdom. After being shown the rise and fall of numerous earthly kingdoms, Daniel is shown a small rock cut out of a mountain without hands that began to roll forth and grow larger and larger until it itself became a great mountain and pulverized all the other kingdoms to dust.

Daniel reveals to King Nebuchadnezzar, “And in the days of these kings (meaning in the Last Days represented by the kingdom of clay, and not during Roman Times which was represented iron) shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” (Daniel 2:44-45)

Joseph Smith was the prophet, like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Peter, who was personally visited, and called as the prophet of this last dispensation, preceding the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is this latter-day kingdom of which Jesus Christ , Daniel and the Apostle John in Revelations is referring too. I honor and am honored by James Black who was and is a fellow and faithful high priest in and ambassador of this great latter-day kingdom. Like John the Baptist was called to prepare the way before Christ's first coming, so the establishment of this Latter-day kingdom would prepare the way before Christ's Second Coming. This great and last latter-day kingdom, would start out small, like a mustard seed, or a pearl of great price, but it would be established by the revelations and authority of God and not by the institutions and scholarship of man. And that kingdom, although small, would grow in humility, righteousness and purity, until the day of destiny when it's watchman would one day see “eye to eye , when the Lord shall bring again Zion.” (Isaiah 52:8)

And even thought Christ's people appear relatively small in number here in mortality, Christ completely overcame death and our numbers there on the other side, far outnumber our smaller numbers here. James Black has moved on to join the great latter-day missionary effort in the spirit world that continues the work that Jesus Christ started when Peter says that, after His crucifixion and before His resurrection, Jesus Christ, “went and preached unto the spirits in prison;” (1 Peter 3:19-20) And by those apostolic sealing keys given to Peter, James and John, and restored to Joseph Smith, the work of God is being effectuated on both sides of the veil, in life, and beyond the grave. May we be blessed to continue in our commitment to the work, and the purposes of Jesus Christ and the building of His kingdom, In the sacred name of our Lord and Savior, even Jesus Christ, Amen.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Tobit on Eternal Marriage

"But the angel [Raphael] said to him, 'Do you not remember the words with which your father commanded you to take a wife from among your own people? Now listen to me, brother, for she will become your wife; and do not worry about the demon, for this very night she will be given to you in marriage... Do not be afraid, for she was destined for you from eternity. You will save her, and she will go with you, and I suppose that you will have children by her.' When Tobias heard these things, he fell in love with her and yearned deeply for her." ( Tob. 6:15, 17)

"unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain." (Psalm 127)

Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,”  (Acts 7:48)

“What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Mark 10:9)

“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt 16:18-19)

Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. “ (1 Cor 11:11)

“For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.”  (2 Cor 11:2)

“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.  This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”  (Eph. 5:31-32)

“As God made man in His own image, so He made earthly marriage in thr image of His own eternal marriage with His people” (Geoffrey Bromiley, God and Marriage, p. 43)

The woman who married 7 brothers nor the Sadducee asking the question were all Jews.  Jews did not accept Christ as their Messiah.  Therefore, the Jews without Christ (power) were not partakers of the blessing of eternal marriage. 

"For in the resurrection they [anyone without Christ] neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven"? (Matt 22:30)

“But if we believe the resurrection of the dead, of course we shall be bound to them with whom we are destined to rise, to render an account the one of the other. But if 'in that age they will neither marry nor be given in marriage, but will be equal to angels,' is not the fact that there will be no restitution of the conjugal relation a reason why we shall not be bound to our departed consorts? Nay, but the more shall we be bound (to them), because we are destined to a better estate— destined (as we are) to rise to a spiritual consortship, to recognise as well our own selves as them who are ours. Else how shall we sing thanks to God to eternity, if there shall remain in us no sense and memory of this debt; if we shall be re-formed in substance, not in consciousness? Consequently, we who shall be with God shall be together; since we shall all be with the one God— albeit the wages be various, albeit there be many mansions, in the house of the same Father having laboured for the one penny of the self-same hire, that is, of eternal life; in which (eternal life) God will still less separate them whom He has conjoined, than in this lesser life He forbids them to be separated.”  (Tertullian, On Monogamy, X)

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Miracle Wool

I again had the oportunity to serve as one of the Trek doctors for a combined Augusta-Greenville Stake pioneer reenactment.  The conditions were a bit warmer than and much wetter than four years ago.  It is impossible to predict and prepare 100% for every medical issue that may occur during an event thik this.  I am grateful for the entire Trek medical team.  Between the members of the team, we seemed to have just about everything we needed. Due to the warmer weather, fire ants were a bigger issue.  Fortunately, our EMT member had a benedryl stick. I brought the Boudreaux’s Butt Paste, and another team member had a large bottle of Gold Bond Medicated Powder which was very useful. 

However, even with our sincere preparation and teamwork.  We couldn’t predict and prepare for everything. Fortunately, a Walmart was not too far from our location. One of the adult organizers offered to stop buy Walmart and pick up anything additional I needed.  I was using up all my mole skin and needed some more in addition to a few other items. This brother told me he’d be back early the next day and would leave the items outside my tent. 

The next morning, the shopping bag with the requested items lay outside my tent.  The four items I requested were present in addition to an unpackaged but clean tuft of lambs wool. Lambs wool is used between the toes, to comfortably spread sore toes to prevent painful rubbing.  I hadn’t asked for lambs wool, but was very thankful to get some. However, when I thanked the brother for the items and the lambs wool, he denied getting the lambs wool.  None of the other adults admitted to providing the wool either.  Most didn’t even know what it was. 

Anyways, I put the lambs wool and other items in my pack.  Later that day, a returned missionary volunteer with a painful ingrown toenail approached me for help.  After performing a wedge incision, he still had quite a swollen and painful toe.  I thought, “lambs wool would really come in handy ... wait a sec....  I’ve got some lambs wool right here”.   I told the RM, “I want you to know that this is divinely provided lambs wool”. I briefly related to him the story as I applied it.

The source of the lambs wool remains a mystery.  But whether another volunteer felt  inspired to sneek the lambs wool into the Walmart bag or the miracle wool was provided by more supernatural means, the point is that in addition to our preparation, and teamwork, God knew that someone would need lambs wool that day. 

I have found that God does care about our youth activities.  Whether its a pioneer reenactment, 50-miler, or girls camp, I think we do experience miracles in these exercises. Trek miracles let us know that if God is watching our practice trials, He will also be watching over us during the real thing.