Tuesday, November 27, 2007
The first question is how do we judge ourselves? Are we hot, lukewarm, or cold in terms of living the gospel of Jesus Christ?
The purpose of this lesson is not to judge anyone or offend anyone. It is simply to remind us of true principles. Although the topic may hit home hard to some, it will not come from me. For this reason we are going to use a lot of scriptures to help us understand these forthcoming principles.
We hear it said that we are a peculiar people. Are we really so weird? Or is it that the rest of the world’s standards are weird to us? It depends on perspective.
Let’s look at the world in general terms. Do we realize that around the world 53 people out of 100 live on an average of just $2 a day? Isn’t that weird? Or are we Canadians weird? Some of us make 100 or even 200 dollars a day. That’s up to 100 times the amount of over 50% of the population of the world. Maybe we are the weird ones!
Let’s face the fact. We are rich! Filthy rich by the world’s standard. We’re loaded. Homes, Cars, Computers, tv’s, nice clothes, plenty to eat, doctors, dentists, all kinds of services and luxuries, vacations, etc. Granted we are not all on the same financial level, but compared to the rest of the world, we’ve got it good.
I say this, but yet many of us would say we are poor, “Oh I’m so poor”, or “I’m broke”. How often do we complain about money? I don’t have enough for this or for that. Can you imagine how most of the world looks at us? They can’t believe how rich we are, yet most of us would say we’re not rich. How often do we stress out about money? We are worried about having enough to buy the things we want or how much we will have 30 years from now. Most of the world is hoping they can get enough to survive the day with food and shelter.
So what is my point? We are rich, and that puts us at a disadvantage. Because we are so blessed above most of the world we are “disadvantaged spiritually”.
We can choose to believe it or not, but it’s the plain fact.
Well what do the scriptures say about all this? Jesus says it’s so hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven, easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle. A thousand different interpretations of that! A good one, that Hugh Nibley tells us is simply mistaken, is that the eye is a doorway with a short arch and to get a camel through it you must strip it of all its burdens and then get it to kneel and duck through. Yeah, that’s what Jesus was really saying. No! You see what he was really saying is, that it really is impossible for a man who trusts riches to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Let’s read Mark 10: 17-27
17 ¶ And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.
20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, one thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
23 ¶ And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, how hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
24 And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!
25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
26 And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?
27 And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men that trust in riches, it is impossible; but not impossible with men who trust in God and leave all for my sake, for with such all these things are possible. - JST
So it is possible to be rich and be saved with God. All things are possible with God. It is not bad to be rich if we use it as is described in Jacob 2.
13 And the hand of providence hath smiled upon you most pleasingly, that you have obtained many riches; and because some of you have obtained more abundantly than that of your brethren ye are lifted up in the pride of your hearts, and wear stiff necks and high heads because of the costliness of your apparel, and persecute your brethren because ye suppose that ye are better than they.
14 And now, my brethren, do ye suppose that God justifieth you in this thing? Behold, I say unto you, Nay. But he condemneth you, and if ye persist in these things his judgments must speedily come unto you.
15 O that he would show you that he can pierce you, and with one glance of his eye he can smite you to the dust!
16 O that he would rid you from this iniquity and abomination. And, O that ye would listen unto the word of his commands, and let not this pride of your hearts destroy your souls!
17 Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.
18 But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.
19 And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.
We tend to think a lot that riches are an advantage and we associate it with blessedness, and so it may be, but not necessarily. Sometimes some of us judge those less fortunate than us and think, “Oh those poor people”. Perhaps we may even judge that they are not keeping the commandments and are therefore not being blessed. This is a wrong and wicked judgment! There are those who do the will of the Lord yet seem to never be able to get ahead financially. They will have a huge credit standing in their favor in the life to come.
Alma 1: 27-31
27 And they did impart of their substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor, and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted; and they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely.
28 And thus they did establish the affairs of the church; and thus they began to have continual peace again, notwithstanding all their persecutions.
29 And now, because of the steadiness of the church they began to be exceedingly rich, having abundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need—an abundance of flocks and herds, and fatlings of every kind, and also abundance of grain, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious things, and abundance of silk and fine-twined linen, and all manner of good homely cloth.
30 And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need.
31 And thus they did prosper and become far more wealthy than those who did not belong to their church.
“They did not set their hearts upon riches”. This is the key line. Why were they blessed? Because they stood firm in the faith and helped all those who stood in need. So this promise remains true.
The problem is we get so caught up with everything around us. We get so clouded. We are so quick to forget and oh so slow to remember. Wealth and possessions draw us away and take our eyes of the prize.
And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.
2 And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.
3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.
4 And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.
5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.
6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.
7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.
8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.
9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.
What was the difference in this story compared to the young ruler in Mark 10?
He was happy to give up his riches. Happy! “Have my money, it means nothing to me, I’ve found Christ, I’ve found truth”. “Jesus just invited me to come dine with him”. He found a treasure far greater didn’t he? Jesus says, “this day salvation has come to this house”. Those are powerful words!
Are we going to be like Zacchaeus or the young man in Mark?
Did Zacchaeus do it with joy or out of guilt? Joy! Are we doing it with joy or because of guilt?
44 ¶ Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
What is the key word in that scripture? JOY!!! Do it with joy. He doesn’t have to think about it, “Gee… I don’t know, is it worth it?” Treasure is joy. With joy he buys the field.
19 ¶ Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
But this Joy seems so rare. Why? Cause money does weird things to people. Ever hear that or say that? We’ve all said it, but I bet I can guess what you haven’t said. “Money does weird things to me”. Face it, money does weird things to us.
Why does it do weird things to us? It gives us a false sense of security. The more we have the more safe we feel. Rather than trusting in God we start to trust in riches. I’m not saying don’t save, don’t prepare, I’m saying don’t trust in riches for security, trust in God and his counsel and wisdom. He will take care of your needs. Do we depend on him for our daily bread? Or do we depend on our money? Are we needy people? We should be needy of the Lord and not for money.
15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
God is displeased in these verses because they are lukewarm. “One foot in the world and one foot in the gospel”.
24 ¶ No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
We so easily become lukewarm, And how does that make him feel? He wants to spue us out of his mouth. He finds it disgusting and unbelievable that we would want to choose other treasures over his.
Are we hot? Are we one fire? I think some of us are. Can we ask ourselves honestly if we are hot or lukewarm? Do some of us consider ourselves lukewarm? I think it fair to say that some of us(meaning members of the church active or less active) want to be lukewarm and we’re lovin’ it! We don’t want to be on fire for the Lord. We might have to sacrifice much more than we are willing to give up. Is that fair? No one is pointing fingers, I’m talking about all of us generally as a whole.
What do we treasure more? Are we choosing things or life style over God’s treasures?
Most of us don’t like it when people challenge us to be on fire. To step outside of comfort and security, to step outside the box.
Can we be spued out and still enter into exaltation? Is it enough to be lukewarm?
If we really get it, and catch the vision, we won’t want to be lukewarm.
Are we swaying back and forth, are we sitting on fences, are we trying to serve two masters? Maybe yes, maybe no. Which one are we?
Perhaps we are on fire most of the time but sometimes we just get blinded by other treasures, whether sin or riches. Do we sometimes debate whether or not it is all worth it? Do we realize what we can have and obtain to? Why is God’s treasure greater than the World’s? We need to be able to clearly answer this.
Most of the time it is a question of faith. We can’t see God and heaven but the world and all it’s glory and pleasure is right in front of our eyes. It’s so easy to have our view clouded. We have to know what we can obtain to and believe it’s true without seeing it. Are #1 priority should be to return to live with God. To be on fire! We need to do all we can to be on fire for Christ. Do whatever it takes! He wants us to be on fire for him. We can’t end our lives lukewarm! Do we get that?
Why are Jesus’ words so strong? What do we think it means to be spued out? How can we compare him to false security, idols, and sin?
It’s sounds so harsh, but Jesus is saying this out of love. Remember the parable of the 10 virgins in Matt 25. Only five were prepared. What does that say about us? Isn’t that scary? I have this fear that many of us are not prepared. Which one of the ten will we be when the bridegroom comes? Are we on fire or are we lukewarm? Are we holding on to sins and worldly security?
Do we want to enter the Celestial kingdom in exaltation or is something lesser than that ok for us? Will we do anything about it? Or will we just leave today and forget about it, trying to pretend it doesn’t apply to us. Are we too clouded and shut out from hearing the warning Jesus has given us?
Some of us cling to our sins that easily beset us. Some of us may have addictions to alcohol, pornography, laziness, riches etc. Have we ever considered we may have an addition to comfort, and false security? We need to look to God for comfort and security and he will give it in abundance, in this life and in the life to come. Remember that men are that they may have Joy. That’s out of 2 Ne. 2:25. Exaltation is all that really matters and the things we must do to get us there. Are we that serious about it?
19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
20 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.
21 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.
Jesus is inviting us, and telling us that what he has is so much better than anything the world can offer. The rest is just garbage in comparison.
The scriptures talk about this large wide lukewarm road that leadeth to destruction, and many follow it. Then there is the small narrow road that leads to eternal life and few that follow it. Those on fire are the ones one the narrow road.
Think about and compare Lehi’s dream of the tree of life in 1 Ne. 8. Are we holding fast to the Iron rod? Or because of the great and spacious building which is the pride of the world, are we getting ourselves lost in the mists of darkness? Why, when we can receive all that God has?
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
What does it mean to become heirs of God?
Can we really look at that kind of reward and than look at the world’s and say, “Well… I don’t know”. Well that is being lukewarm.
Can we really find fulfillment outside of God’s Plan? Wickedness never was happiness.
Let me make it clear, it’s not about being poor or rich, do you get that? It isn’t bad to be either. The fact is, it’s not what matters. We shouldn’t care about being rich or care about the sinful pleasures of the world. God has all the riches and all the pleasure we could ever desire. He wants to give them to us, as a gift!
Are we too busy with other things that take us away from what God would rather have us do? Are we too busy to serve our fellow men? Too busy to attend the temple more often? In which ways are we lukewarm? Are we praying in a lukewarm way? How about scripture study? How about church attendance? What about home teaching and serving and going to activities? What about sustaining our leaders lukewarmly? What about fulfilling family duties? If we are doing any of these things in a lukewarm way and not with joy, doesn’t that make us lukewarm? Are we prefect? No, but we ought to be trying and we ought to be repenting and willing to change. We ought to be working on it sincerely.
19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
What are the areas in our lives where we are lukewarm? Are we ready to change and be on fire?
Study D&C 6:7, D&C 53:2, Alma 39:14,1 Ne. 8, Luke 8:5-15, D&C 121:34-40
Saturday, November 17, 2007
How is the spirit different from emotion or is it really that much different at all?
We first look for a response from the Holy Ghost to testify of the truth of Christ, the Book of Mormon and other scriptures and Joseph Smith the Prophet. From there we rely on him to testify of other gospel truths and commandments. Then if we choose to follow the Spirit, we ask for his guidance the rest of our lives through the gift of the Holy Ghost which comes after baptism.
How does this spirit work? How does it testify? How can we really know?
I’ve heard some people say, yes surely you believe it, and have hope that it is true, but you don’t really know, you can’t know, you have no real proof? I ask what proof would be sufficient? Usually a response is given that a personal miracle or angelic manifestation would suffice. Yet we know of many individuals in the scriptures who saw angels and miracles yet still chose to rebel and rationalize these events to support there unrighteous cause. What would it really take to know? When we stand up on fast and testimony meeting and say “I know” we really mean it! But how? How do we really know? It is true we live by levels of faith and levels of knowledge and we are not all on the same level at the same time. Maybe some of us just have hope and belief. This is the start. How can we base so much on a feeling? Question is, is it just a feeling or is there more to it? If there is more, what is it? How does one recognize it? How does one know his mind isn’t playing tricks or that the mind wants to believe its true so badly that it creates emotions and thoughts that lead to what one thinks is the spirit talking to him? How does one know he is not being deceived by false emotions, teachings and prophets? How can we have faith in something we can not see or completely understand?
There are answers to all of these questions, but it takes time to experience it and get a personal answer, and to try to explain it can be difficult. But nevertheless we can try our best. What does salt taste like? Salty! What does the spirit feel like? Spirity! No one can really tell you, you have to experience for yourself. How do we figure out what salt tastes like? We try it. If you never try it, you’ll never know. Same goes for just about anything. So where does that leave us and how does that apply to the gospel? It’s been said by their fruits you shall know them. Well does this gospel produce good fruit or bad fruit? How shall we know and decide? If there appears to be a small spot on the fruit is the whole fruit bad? Should it be thrown out or preserved? What is the purpose and use of the fruit? Some times the bruised ones make the best jams and pies. How shall we judge the fruit? Who shall decide its purpose? God and God alone has and continues to declare these distinctions through the scriptures and his prophets. Through these tools and the Holy Ghost we find the way to judge.
It is my learning that there are those in the church who sometimes run into stumbling blocks regarding doctrines, histories, and the unexplained among other things. These things if left unattended properly can sit and stew and create a loss of spirit and a gradual denial of testimonies. This is one of Satan’s greatest tools against the latter-day work. Philosophies of men mingled with scripture. When faced with these stumbling blocks turn to the lord through all his resources. Prayer, scriptures, Holy Sanctuaries called temples, family and friends and church members and leaders can all help you to better understand things and help lead you in which actions to take to help overcome your stumbling blocks. It is my experience that there is always an answer if we are willing to look for it. The best way to gain knowledge is to go to God directly through prayer and ask. We first gain knowledge and understanding to allow for faith; we then take it to the lord for confirmation through the Holy Ghost. We can not have faith without knowledge; we can not have faith in something we don’t understand.
It is the first principle of revealed religion to understand the nature and character of God. Knowledge, experience, and most of all manifestations of the Holy Ghost increase our faith.
We’ve been taught to judge things as a whole and not to cast it out by lack of understanding of individual pieces. The core of the belief and main principles should be judged. If these can be shown to be good then we can know the rest is good. Imagine if we judged the church by the members only and not by the core doctrines.
I have often thought I felt prompted to do something or to do a good deed. Sometimes I question whether or not it was the spirit or just my mind making it up. My question is, does it really matter where it came from if it is persuading you to do good?
Considering the following scripture:
16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.
How can I know when I have the Spirit of the Lord with me? Sometimes I can’t tell if I’m just feeling “good” or if my feelings are genuinely righteous.
Here’s the list of the kinds of things young people say they feel when the Spirit is with them, and what they feel when Satan tries to take over—making them unhappy, or tricking them with counterfeits. Do these feelings match your experience?
When you have the Spirit:
1. You feel happy, calm, and clear-minded.
2. You feel generous.
3. Nobody can offend you.
4. You wouldn’t mind everybody seeing what you’re doing.
5. You are eager to be with people and want to make them happy.
6. You are glad when others succeed.
7. You are glad to attend your meetings and participate in church activities.
8. You feel like praying.
9. You wish you could keep all the Lord’s commandments.
10. You feel in control—you don’t overeat or sleep too much; you don’t feel uncontrollably drawn to sensational entertainment, lose your temper, or feel uncontrollable passions or desires.
11. You think about the Savior often and lovingly; you want to know him better.
12. You feel confident and are glad to be alive.
When you don’t have the Spirit:
1. You feel unhappy, depressed, confused, and frustrated.
2. You feel possessive, self-centered, or resentful of demands made on you.
3. You are easily offended.
4. You become secretive and evasive.
5. You avoid people, especially members of your family; and you are critical of family members and Church authorities.
6. You envy or resent the successes of others.
7. You don’t want to go to church, go home teaching, or take the sacrament. You wish you had another church calling or no calling at all.
8. You don’t want to pray.
9. You find the commandments bothersome, restricting, or senseless.
10. You feel emotions and appetites so strongly that you fear you cannot control them—hate, jealousy, anger, lust, hunger, fatigue.
11. You hardly ever think of the Savior; he seems irrelevant to your life, or worse, part of a confusing system that seems to work against you.
12. You get discouraged easily and wonder if life is really worth it.
The mere fact that young people easily put this list together is a powerful reassurance that they do have the key to discernment.
If you find Satan’s influence too much with you, then get help. Counsel with your parents or a Church leader; ask for a priesthood blessing; go to the Lord in fervent prayer for the clearness of mind and conscience that are signs of the Lord’s Spirit.”
I’ve talked to people before who are concerned that they have never felt the overwhelming feeling or a burning of the bosom from the Holy Ghost. It is true, there are truly no words to describe this feeling. They are the most beautiful experiences I have ever had. Certain individuals wonder why they haven’t received such a response and think that perhaps they are doing something wrong. Preoccupation with this is actually a bad thing. It can lead to frustration and question of ones testimony. They start to make excuses and rationalize that what other people are feeling is not the Holy Ghost and therefore maybe the church is not true. They chalk it all up to natural emotion and personal desire to believe something is true.
What other ways does the Spirit manifest himself?
If you are open and worthy to receive these spiritual confirmations there are other things you may feel besides the burning in the bosom. Many say they feel an inner peace, an enlightenment of soul. Others say it sounds good and tastes good to their soul. Others say it makes them feel happy and inspires them to want to do good and help others. Others have feelings of forgiveness towards those who have done them wrong. Some how you naturally feel closer to God and you feel his warmth and love. Almost like a good hug or a gentle sensation filled with hope. All evil thoughts and feelings depart. You feel more patient, thoughtful and you desire to pray and thank Heavenly Father for all he does for you, for His plan and His Son’s atonement. Truly if we are experiencing any of these feelings we can be sure it comes from God and His Holy Spirit.
On the other side of feelings that we can have, if something is not true or not good or is perhaps not a good choice that God would have us make we can recognize the lack of the Spirit’s influence. When I go to Heavenly Father in prayer and ask him for help when making some decisions that impact my life I listen to see how I feel. Sometimes after I ask for something I may feel unsettled or confused, I may feel nervous or doubtful. You may even have a stupor of thought which causes you to forget momentarily the thing which you asked him. These feelings of course are not associated with the Spirit and we then can know that the thing is wrong. Sometimes a response like this can be just as powerful to know that God is answering you and that your feelings are not created by raw emotion alone. I find this especially when it changes your mind about something you had previously thought passionate about. However before we discard anything we should ask ourselves some serious questions.
Am I worthy of the guidance of the Holy Ghost? Do I have faith that he will answer me? Is my question sincere, and am I humble and open to truth? Am I willing to submit his will before mine? Do I have a good agenda? Am I listening to my true thoughts and feelings? Sometimes it is good to ask for confirmation to a response you feel you have received. The spirit should not leave you doubting.
Sometimes what we are asking for may not be a bad thing or a wrong thing, but simply there might just be a better thing or a better way. We should be in the habit of asking ourselves what is best. The Lord would have us do what’s best. Sometimes our choices are not between good and bad, but between good and best.
Is it enough to just ask and do nothing more? No, if something seems good then we must test it out and prove it to be good through faith in action.
Compare Alma 32: Here in lies the key on how we can come to know and not just believe.
28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
29 Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.
30 But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.
31 And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.
32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.
33 And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.
34 And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.
One can feel the spirit through emotion but we should be careful of what that emotion is leading us to do. A dangerous fast ride down a highway can feel good and exhilarating but the emotion is based on wrong actions. The same as a relationship where you think you feel good and loved, but it is not based within the bounds the Lord has set. Emotions therefore must be tested against true principals. If they inspire to do good, it is from God, and if it is just a cheap thrill and does no good, it is not of Him. Our responsibility therefore is to first come to understand what these principals are and then test them in prayer and in action. Then we will be able to distinguish the similarities and dissimilarities between the Spirit and emotion. Remember that “the Spirit of the Lord doth not dwell in unholy temples” (Helaman 4:24). Even though you have received the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Spirit will dwell with you only when you keep the commandments. He will withdraw if you offend Him by profanity, uncleanliness, disobedience, rebellion, or other sins. Keep yourself clean. Fill your life with goodness so you can be worthy of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. As you continue to strive to serve the Lord and keep his commandments the Holy Ghost will be a blessing to you throughout your life. Of these things I can surely testify.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Is Cain still alive? Is he amongst the current inhabitants of this earth?
Myth, confirmed fact, or only plausible?
In the Old Testament we learn that after Cain killed Abel, a “curse” was laid on him, (no priesthood for posterity) and also that he shall have a unique mark, so that people will know and recognize him, and that he should be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth. The question is: Is Cain still alive? Is he amongst the current inhabitants of this earth?
Let’s refer to the scripture found in Genesis 4:11-15—
“And now thou art cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand; When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth. And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me. And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.”
Two things about this passage: 1) The passage does not say nor mean that Cain would never die. A mark was placed on Cain so that he would not be murdered in some sort of revenge for what he had done. That mark was a blessing to Cain in order to preserve his life, but the mark was not designed to extend life beyond the normal span. What was the mark? It could be several things, but all we know from Joseph Smith was that a black skin was placed upon him at that time. 2) In the above verses it seems as though both the Lord and Cain are using the name of Cain in a generic sense. They are not talking only about Cain the individual, but indeed the family, including the descendants of Cain. This is first apparent from Cain’s statement that every one that findeth me shall slay me. If he were speaking of himself alone, he would not have used the phrase every one that findeth me, which implies multiple findings and multiple slayings. Also the Lord doesn’t say, “whosoever slayeth thee” he says, “whosever slayeth Cain” even though he is talking right to him. The name Cain is almost used kind of like a last name or a family name in this context.
Let’s consider the writings from the lost book of Jasher.
"And Lamech was old and advanced in years, and his eyes were dim that he could not see, and Tubal Cain, his son, was leading him and it was one day that Lamech went into the field and Tubal Cain his son was with him, and whilst they were walking in the field, Cain the son of Adam advanced towards them; for Lamech was very old and could not see much, and Tubal Cain his son was very young. And Tubal Cain told his father to draw his bow, and with the arrows he smote Cain, who was yet far off, and he slew him, for he appeared to them to be an animal. And the arrows entered Cain's body although he was distant from them, and he fell to the ground and died. And the Lord requited Cain's evil according to his wickedness, which he had done to his brother Abel, according to the word of the Lord which he had spoken. And it came to pass when Cain had died, that Lamech and Tubal went to see the animal which they had slain, and they saw, and behold Cain their grandfather was fallen dead upon the earth. And Lamech was very much grieved at having done this, and in clapping his hands together he struck his son and caused his death."
If these writings are true, then Cain is definitely dead. Question is, can we use the book of Jasher as a viable source to weigh these type of mysteries? Not really, since it is not scripture, and a questionable source for truth.
A similar legend is preserved in the pseudepigraphic Second Book of Adam and Eve, Chapter XIII; in this version Tubal-Cain is not named, but is instead referred to as "the young shepherd." After Lamech claps his hands he strikes the young shepherd on the head. To ensure his death, he then smashed his head with a rock.
An excerpt from Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, p.127-128
"On the sad character Cain, an interesting story comes to us from Lycurgus A. Wilson's book on the life of David W. Patten. From the book I quote an extract from a letter by Abraham O. Smoot giving his recollection of David Patten's account of meeting "a very remarkable person who had represented himself as being Cain."As I was riding along the road on my mule I suddenly noticed a very strange personage walking beside me…. His head was about even with my shoulders as I sat in my saddle. He wore no clothing, but was covered with hair. His skin was very dark. I asked him where he dwelt and he replied that he had no home, that he was a wanderer in the earth and traveled to and fro. He said he was a very miserable creature, that he had earnestly sought death during his sojourn upon the earth, but that he could not die, and his mission was to destroy the souls of men. About the time he expressed himself thus, I rebuked him in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by virtue of the Holy Priesthood, and commanded him to go hence, and he immediately departed out of my sight.”
If this story is true, then can we assume Cain is still living and is perhaps like a Yeti?
This line is interesting, “he immediately departed out of my sight.” Does departed in this line mean walk or ran away, or does it mean vanished into thin air?
This story of Patten’s comes from the journal of Abraham Smoot. He was an early pro-slavery member who was a slave holder himself. This story in his journal is linked to his ideas of black slaves and the supposed curse of Cain. His journal was written some 20-30 years later after the events have happened, and most of his stories are second and third hand accounts which he was not witnesses too. It’s not usually good practice when relating history to use third hand accounts as evidence to events. So the validity of this story is in deep question. In fact his journal is always taken as a suspicious source for history. Abraham Smoot's journal is never taken very seriously by LDS historians. He is also the same guy who recorded the third hand story of Joseph and the angel and polygamy. He is the one who accounts the story that Joseph did not want to practice polygamy, but an angel came with a flaming sword and threatened to kill him if he did not practice polygamy. Like many of Smoot's tales they are seen as fictional and hearsay by many LDS historians, but his tales stick in our culture probably because of the mysterious and mythical stories that they are, and that we love to tell them.
It is interesting that the Three Nephites and John are all specifically told, promised, they will be around until and for the second coming, Cain is not.
Gen 4:15 "Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him."
If Cain could not be killed God would not have added the warning that whoever killed him would have his vengeance. Cain may still be alive and wandering, or he may be a spirit that is still wandering. Also like in David W. Patten case, it would not be the first time an apostle has been approached by an emissary of the devil in spirit.Another thought to ponder would be, if he has been killed would his spirit be cursed to wander here, or would he go to Spirit Prison to await Judgement Day?
If he was truly wandering still, and not in spirit prison, could that be the type of death he was seeking? Yet, isn’t the spirit world among us anyway, we just can’t see it? It might be possible I guess for him to be a spirit but not yet in prison. Almost as if he is trapped between the two worlds. In a sense that is prison anyway.
In the statement, “Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain” seems to be implying that it is possible to kill Cain.
Perhaps some more insight can be taken from Moses chapter 5. Also this chapter sheds some light on the book of Jasher and may enhance the validity of it.
39 Behold thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the Lord, and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that he that findeth me will slay me, because of mine iniquities, for these things are not hid from the Lord.
40 And I the Lord said unto him: Whosoever slayeth thee, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And I the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.
41 And Cain was shut out from the presence of the Lord, and with his wife and many of his brethren dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.
42 And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bare Enoch, and he also begat many sons and daughters. And he builded a city, and he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch.
43 And unto Enoch was born Irad, and other sons and daughters. And Irad begat Mahujael, and other sons and daughters. And Mahujael begat Methusael, and other sons and daughters. And Methusael begat Lamech.
44 And Lamech took unto himself two wives; the name of one being Adah, and the name of the other, Zillah.
45 And Adah bare Jabal; he was the father of such as dwell in tents, and they were keepers of cattle; and his brother’s name was Jubal, who was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.
46 And Zillah, she also bare Tubal Cain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron. And the sister of Tubal Cain was called Naamah.
47 And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah: Hear my voice, ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech; for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt.
48 If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech shall be seventy and seven fold;
49 For Lamech having entered into a covenant with Satan, after the manner of Cain, wherein he became Master Mahan, master of that great secret which was administered unto Cain by Satan; and Irad, the son of Enoch, having known their secret, began to reveal it unto the sons of Adam;
50 Wherefore Lamech, being angry, slew him, not like unto Cain, his brother Abel, for the sake of getting gain, but he slew him for the oath’s sake.
51 For, from the days of Cain, there was a secret combination, and their works were in the dark, and they knew every man his brother.
52 Wherefore the Lord cursed Lamech, and his house, and all them that had covenanted with Satan; for they kept not the commandments of God, and it displeased God, and he ministered not unto them, and their works were abominations, and began to spread among all the sons of men. And it was among the sons of men.
53 And among the daughters of men these things were not spoken, because that Lamech had spoken the secret unto his wives, and they rebelled against him, and declared these things abroad, and had not compassion;
54 Wherefore Lamech was despised, and cast out, and came not among the sons of men, lest he should die.
55 And thus the works of darkness began to prevail among all the sons of men.
Could this scripture be suggesting that it was Cain and Tubal Cain that Lamech Killed just as the book of Jasher accounts? He also made a secret combination and oath with Satan.
I think it's more than likely he died physically at some point before the flood or at least at that point in time. Scriptures seem to be pointing this out. Patten’s story could be false all together given the source, but even if it is true, Cain could have just as well only been a Spirit at the time.
So… Is Cain still roaming the earth as a physical living being? I would say no. It seems more Myth than plausible and definitely not a confirmed fact. I believe he died long ago before the flood or in it.
What do you think about it?
This topic of course is not very important for us to have an understanding of, but even still I find it fascinating.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
The path and plan is laid for you, because of Christ we are made new.
Faith, repentance, be baptized, and then the Holy Ghost draws nigh.
Choose the right with hearts made pure, as the saints we must endure.
The promised blessings our reward, Christ our King forever more.
Poem by: Kent Wentzell
population estimates for the Encyclopedia Britannica and World
Almanac, there are about 10,000 distinct religions in the world today.
See this article:
"Researcher tabulates world's believers" by Richard N. Ostling, Associated Press,
'The 2001 edition, successor to his 1983 first edition, which took a
decade to compile, identifies 10,000 distinct religions, of which 150
have 1 million or more followers. Within Christianity, he counts
33,830 denominations. Barrett also calculates religious populations for the Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year, standard estimates that are used in turn by the World Almanac and innumerable journalists.
Such numbers are always debatable, but they're the best available.
"We don't really have any rivals," Barrett says..."
On the web site of adherents.com:
Barrett's book, "World Christian Encyclopedia : A Comparative Survey
of Churches and Religions in the Modern World" is available for online
browsing using the "search inside" feature on Amazon.com:
All religious beliefs, groups or churches seem to fall into one of these following categories or distinctions:
Eastern Orthodox Church
Oriental Orthodox Church
Assyrian Church of the East
African Initiated Church
Chinese folk religion
African diasporic religions
If you don’t see a well reconized religion on the list, it is because they fall under one of the listings. i.e. Jehovah’s Witnesses are under nontrinitarian, Coumunity of Christ is under restorationism, Islam under Quranic religions.
The Baha’i faith is actually the fastest growing (by percentage) religion in the world.
Top ten major types of Religions
1.Christianity, 1900 million adherents. Has the most followers and most widespread presence of all well-recognized religions. Predominant religion in Europe, the Americas, Southern Africa, Oceania, and the Philippines.
2.Islam, 1100 million adherents. A widespread religion with many countries majority Muslim, particularly in the Middle East, South Asia, Maritime Southeast Asia, Central Asia, North Africa, West Africa and some parts of Eastern Europe.
3.Hinduism, 781 million adherents. Umbrella term for various Hindu denominations forming the majority in India, Nepal, North Eastern province of Sri Lanka, and the Bali & java sub-province of Indonesia,parts of latin america , eastern africa, Australia, USA and UK.
4.Buddhism, 324 million adherents. Largely in East Asia and the Mainland Southeast Asia, and small parts of South Asia and Russia.
5.Sikhism, 19 million adherents. Mostly in the Indian Punjab; also large numbers in other parts of India and the United Kingdom, the USA, Canada, Malaysia and Southeast Asia, Germany and East Africa.
6.Judaism, 14 million adherents. A widespread religion with Israel majority Jewish, and with the USA having the largest Jewish population worldwide.
7.Bahá'í Faith, 6.1 million adherents. Youngest of the group of 10, second most widely dispersed religion after Christianity; fastest growing (percentage) of top 10.
8.Confucianism, 5.3 million adherents. Mostly in China proper; and in Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam.
9.Jainism, 4.9 million adherents. Mostly in India.
10.Shinto, 2.8 million adherents. Mostly in (and formerly the state religion of) Japan.
With such a list of religions and denominations, it’s no wonder the world is in confusion about God.
Many of these claim truth or the only truth to be found. These convictions are held with sincerity and honest belief by many. Many claim God has spoken to them or have received revelation or a response by the holy spirit of the truth of their belief. They really believe they have the truth just as the Latter Day Saints claim to have it.
The LDS believe we have the truth and we claim authority. We say we know this by the Holy Spirit who testifies of this truth. This is how we can be sure.
How then are we any different from those who make the same claims that we do, through a similar process of searching for truth?
Is there another way to help us find truth amongst the confusion?
Can the truth be proved? Or should it or should it not?
“Mine elect will hear my voice”- what does this mean to you?
Is Satan confusing and deceiving other religions and people by trying to appear as an angel of light and truth?
Satan cannot imitate the spirit but is he using other forms of emotions and manifestations to deceive?
How can we really know the real truth?
Do we really know, or do we only have faith and hope in our beliefs?
The process of Alma 32 and the seed gives us many clues and insights on how to find truth. How do we apply it directly?
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
1. Adam head, no forerunner?
2. Enoch head, Jared forerunner?
3. Noah head, Methuselah forerunner
4. Abraham head, Melchizedek forerunner
5. Moses head, Jethro forerunner
6. Jesus head, John forerunner
7. Joseph Smith Jr. head, Joseph Smith Sr. forerunner?
These are my best guesses from information I've read on it, and from my reading of the scriptures.
Are these assumptions fairly accurate to you?
How does one define a head?
How does one define a forerunner?
Besides the report to Adam before the second coming at Adam ondi Ahman, what could some of their futures roles be?
God has said there is no beginning and no end, and this is what we believe.
Let’s explore some possibilities to what this could mean.
Perhaps space, time and eternity are so extensive that the Lord has said it is absolutely unfathomable to mortal minds kept behind the veil, and hence infinite to them. And so "infinite" could mean uncountable or beyond understanding. It's fair to say that something uncountable could be infinite to us. This does not however mean for sure that it is the same for God. What is infinite or uncountable (beyond understanding) for us maybe countable and finite for God.
I'm reminded of Moses 1:35-37
35 But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.
36 And it came to pass that Moses spake unto the Lord, saying: Be merciful unto thy servant, O God, and tell me concerning this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, and also the heavens, and then thy servant will be content.
37 And the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying: The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine.
Although it may be finite to the Gods understanding, it does not erase the idea that things could ever be expanding, some how, some way, some form, as we see happening in our universe. I also don't think something finite to God makes things linear. It's possible there's still room for "one eternal round". (Whatever that really means)
Perhaps what God or The Gods have already created is so vast and advanced that we simply cannot comprehend it and it is innumerable to us. Which could give it the title beginningless or endless.
Personally, because it is innumerable or infinite for us, does not rule out for me the fact that in reality it could be finite for God, with possibility of eternal expansion.
However with all that being said, I do not think it rules out that in someway it could actually be beginningless for God as well.
Is there truly no beginning (no start)?
Or… do you think there could be some interpretation of beginning overlooked?
Or… are we out to lunch on this and there must be a beginning?
Friday, October 26, 2007
On bending knee in fervent pray, Lord count us worthy to enter there.
The things of God are of deep import and love and virtue are in our hearts.
We come to thee in humility, with careful, ponderous solemnity.
We have clean hands, our hearts are pure, in this we promise to endure.
Let us serve with holiness of heart, in sacred ordinances that are taught.
In thy House the Christ is found, thy light thy truth and love abound.
By: Kent Wentzell
1. Peter and the Celestial Kingdom. First is the trump to announce those who resurrect to the highest heaven, the celestial kingdom, where God the Father dwells (D&C 88:94-98; 76:50 70). It was proposed that the first angel is Uriel, known in mortality as Peter, whose principal assignment is to preside over those valiant Christians who qualify for that highest heaven.
2. Moses and the Terrestrial Kingdom. The second trump is for the terrestrial kingdom, the second highest heaven, which is prepared for the honorable people of the earth who chose not to accept and live all of the teaching of Jesus Christ. It was proposed that the second angel is Raguel, known as Moses in his mortal probation, who has been like a shepherd to his people both in life and afterward, to prepare them to receive Christ either at his first or second coming.
3. Abel and the Telestial Kingdom. The third trump is for the telestial kingdom, designed for those who rejected the word of God, but who someday will bow the knee to Jesus. After death they suffer torment, and have to remain in hell until after the Millennium (D&C 88:100-101; 76:81-90, 98-112). Those in this kingdom do not enjoy the presence of either God the Father nor Jesus Christ, but are presided over by the Holy Ghost and ministering angels (D&C 88:86-88). It was proposed that the third angel is Sariel, known in life as Abel, and that one of his key roles is to preside over hell, and attempt to help its inhabitants repent and qualify for the highest kingdom possible. Abel was the first martyr and the first to enter the spirit world. In the Greek myths it is Hades who presides over the underworld, so Hades can be identified with Abel. After hell shuts down at the end of the Millennium, presumably Abel will continue to lead his "graduating class" in the telestial kingdom.
4. Enoch and Sons of Perdition. The fourth trump is for those who not only reject Jesus Christ, but also the Holy Spirit after having received it. Even after all of Satan's deceitfulness is exposed during the Millennium and those who mistakenly served Satan repent and turn to Christ, these will still willingly serve Satan by choice (D&C 76:25-38, 43-49). It was proposed that this fourth angel is Raphael, known in life as Enoch. He was translated to heaven (celestial kingdom) with his whole city. When some of those angels fell to the enticing of Satan, even after all that they knew, they became sons of perdition. Thus Enoch presided over a righteous city on earth (Moses 7:19-21), over his followers in the highest heaven, and also over the lowest of the low. But after the final Judgment Day at the end of the Millennium, Enoch's charge over them might end when they are cast out into the lake of fire with Satan (Rev. 20:10-15). Moreover, Enoch was known as "the scribe" and it is proposed that he acted as a secretary to the Presidency of Peter, Moses and Abel. As has been discussed, each of those four members presided over a different level of spirituality, and the areas of heaven and hell where such people reside. But it was proposed that Enoch served a double role, also being secretary to the following presidency.
5. Joseph Smith, Second Counselor. It was proposed that the Prophet Joseph Smith is the fifth angel, Phanuel, and that he functions as a second counselor in a presidency over all of the above individuals, but arranged into different groups. He is the counselor assigned to Zion, being the western hemisphere. He also has the special assignments of ushering in the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times, when all of the other six angels returned and gave him their keys and gifts so that the fulness of the Gospel would be restored on earth in preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. He also has the special assignment of the salvation of mankind, both the living and the dead, in a role similar to Jesus Christ in the First Presidency of Heaven of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. He was even sacrificed as a lamb, as was the Savior.
6. Noah, First Counselor. It was proposed that Noah is the sixth angel, Gabriel, and that he also functions as the first counselor in the First Presidency of the Earth. He is assigned to the eastern hemisphere, where his ark landed after the great flood. He is also assigned to spiritual roles, comparable to the Holy Ghost in the Godhead. He presides over the restoration of the gospel (as Elias/Gabriel, D&C 27:6-7), likely including the pouring out of knowledge and blessings on the heads of the saints (D&C 110:9, 121:33).
7. Adam, President. The scriptures explicitly tell us that the seventh angel is the archangel Michael who will lead the armies of God to overcome Satan in the great war at the end of the Millennium when Satan is finally defeated forever (D&C 88:110-115). Michael was known during mortality as Adam (D&C 27:11), the father of our human family. It was proposed that he presides over all of the earth and all of mankind. Adam's duties almost all pertain to the earth, rather than heaven or hell.
An Orson Whitney quote on this subject gives some astonishment and a feeling that some may think that it is not sound LDS doctrine, i.e., too good to be true. We recognize that one must not commit sin against the Holy Ghost, regardless of anything else. Moreover, We know of the descriptions of suffering and payment to be made–certainly not pleasant (but necessary) to endure. In other articles, however, we’ve read about people forfeiting their exaltation through sin and breaking of covenants.
How does this relate to and reconcile with being born in the covenant?
Just for completeness, let me add one other source of the statement in question by Orson F. Whitney—
“I have here an interesting statement by Elder Orson F. Whitney: “The Prophet Joseph Smith declared-and he never taught more comforting doctrine-that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God” (Conference Report, April 1929). If any of you have a child or loved one in that condition, do not give up. Pray for them and love them and reach out to them and help them. (Jordan Utah South Regional Conference, March 2, 1997.) (Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p.54)
Now let’s explore that doctrine a bit to see if we can demonstrate its rationality. In the first place, some given premises—
1) God is just
Now it is better that a man should be judged of God than of man, for the judgments of God are always just, but the judgments of man are not always just (Mosiah 29:12).
2) God is merciful and kind
thou [God] art merciful and kind forever (Moses 7:30).
3) God’s word is always fulfilled, without an question or exception
What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same (Doctrine & Covenants 1:38).
The eternal marriage covenant in the holy temple is a conditional covenant. It’s fulfilment depends on the faithfulness of the participants. If either of the participants violates any of the conditions of that sacred covenant, it is no longer valid, and the marriage of such people terminates at the death of the first partner to die, exactly the same as all the marriages that are performed by any other authority in the world.
The sealing of children to parents, on the other hand, has no extenuating conditions associated with it. Those sealings, pronounced by the authority and power of the holy priesthood, articulate the very words of God. They are therefore always fulfilled. How then would the above premises relate to such an inevitable condition that is deemed to apply in spite of the worthiness of the recipient?
How is justice obtained in such a condition? From Orson F. Whitney’s statement—
“They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path…”
Such recreant children, depending on the degree of their disobedience, may not even come forth in the first resurrection, and would be remanded to the custody of Satan for the thousand year period until the second resurrection at the end of the millennium. They would have paid the full price for all their wickedness, just as if there had been no divine redemption. Justice will have been served, and they would have learned obedience by the things that they would have suffered. The price to justice having been fully paid, the promise made to them in the holy temple would remain in force and they would be restored to their parent’s custody in the celestial kingdom of God. However, in the celestial kingdom there are three glories or degrees—
In the celestial glory there are three glories or degrees; And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; And if he does not, he cannot obtain it. He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase (Doctrine & Covenants 131:1-4).
The highest degree of glory in the celestial kingdom is called exaltation. Thus, those who are saved in the celestial kingdom, but have not taken upon themselves or have not fulfilled the required conditions of the eternal marriage covenant—
when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory (Doctrine & Covenants 132:16).
By: Kent Wentzell
The punishment of Cain was, as he told the Lord, more than he could bear, and feared that others would seek to take his life.
And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.(Gen 1:13-14)
So the Lord promised Cain that if any were to kill him or his descendants, vengeance would be taken on them sevenfold, and he put a mark on Cain and his posterity to set them apart so that others finding them would not slay them. That mark was a black skin, and it was given to them as a protection and a blessing, not as a curse. (see Genesis 4:15)
The curse = no priesthood for himself or his posterity
The mark = black skin
The curse and the mark are not the same thing!
Prior to 1835 some blacks were ordained to the priesthood. The concept of withholding the priesthood from blacks of African decent was revealed when Joseph Smith translated the papyrus containing the Book of Abraham. The mummies containing the papyrus were purchased by the Mormon Church in July 1835. In “The History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” by the prophet, this entry for 7 October 1835 is found—
“This afternoon I re-commenced translating the ancient records.”
In this translated volume is the record of how the seed of Cain survived the great flood. The wife of Ham, one of three sons of Noah, was Egyptus, who was from the loins of Cain—
From this descent sprang all the Egyptians, and thus the blood of the Canaanites was preserved in the land (Abr 1:22).
The curse that the Lord put upon Cain for killing his brother, Abel, was that neither he nor his descendants would have the right to hold the priesthood. Cain, in lamenting this fact, said—
Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me (Gen 4:14).
So to protect Cain from the wrath of others, the Lord gave him the following protection—
And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him (Gen 4:15).
The mark was a black skin, and it was given to Cain as a protection from the evil of others, not as a curse (As mentioned above, the only curse was withholding the priesthood.) Egyptus carried the genetic strain of a black skin through the flood. The daughter of Ham and Egyptus discovered the land of Egypt, and her son, Pharoah, became the first ruler of the land. In Abraham 1:26 we read—
Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood.
Prior to 1835 some blacks were ordained to the priesthood, but in accordance with the information revealed in the Book of Abraham that practice was discontinued. However, each of the presidents of the Mormon Church, from Joseph Smith to Spencer W. Kimball, prophesied that the day would come when the Lord would remove the curse of withholding the priesthood from the descendants of Cain. This came about through a revelation given by the Lord to President Spencer W. Kimball, and was published in an Official Declaration to the world on 30 Sept. 1978, which says in part—
He has heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long-promised day has come when every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood, with power to exercise its divine authority, and enjoy with his loved ones every blessing that flows therefrom, including the blessings of the temple. Accordingly, all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color. (The Doctrine and Covenants Official Declaration–2).
To me this revelation is truly one of the signs of the times in this dispensation of the fullness of times when all things shall be restored.
The old notion that blacks were less worthy in the pre-existence and that black skin is a curse is completely false and is based on evil prejudice and bad speculation. It was merely a distinction to protect Cain. I personally would speculate to say that God had foreknowledge that the descendants of Cain would eventually settle in the equatorial regions of the earth and therefore the black skin would eventually become a blessing for there protection against the sun and hence one of the reasons for this particular mark and also a reason to survive the flood through Ham’s wife. The lord does all things in wisdom and with a righteous purpose. The curse of the priesthood was however real but has nothing to do with worthiness or skin color of individuals. Gratefully we have a religion that has revealed that all the same blessings and privileges will be given in due time to all of God’s children no matter what distinction and no matter whether they live in the past present or future.
Why did the Lord wait so long to permit the posterity of Cain to receive the Priesthood? We don’t know! But as Isaiah says:
Isaiah55 “8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”
We need not fret over the unknown, He says, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”. Remember to keep in mind all of the promises he has made to us concerning our eternal happiness. We will one day see that all commandments are consistent with that happiness, even if we don’t see and understand it yet.
I think it’s hard to fully comprehend all things and reasons why the lord commands us to do things. But his ways are not our ways. I’ve often asked myself if there was no other way Nephi could have got the brass plates without the necessity of killing laban which is contrary to the lord’s commandments. Nevertheless the lord commanded it by the hand of Nephi, and it was a challenge of great faith by Nephi to be able to follow through, despite how faithful he had been that far in their journey. It goes to show that the lord must prove our faith in all things to be counted worthy.
Joseph Smith once said that if there was any other way the lord could have tried Abraham further than that of offering his son, he would have done it. We too must be tried at some point and somehow like Abraham.
Our faith is tried today as we live by commandments given in these latter days by our prophets. We neither see proof, nor most times have things even explained to us. Yet, it must be so as to try our faith.
Many claim that President Brigham Young and other early church leaders were racist and pro slavery, but the opposite is true. In referring to the ban on the priesthood:
“President Young felt it, however, to be his duty to make plain the attitude of the Mormon people in Utah on the subject. In an address to the legislature he said: “The Lord said I will not kill Cain, but I will put a mark upon him, and that mark will be seen upon the face of every negro upon the face of the earth; and it is the decree of God that that mark shall remain upon the seed of Cain until the seed of Abel shall be redeemed, and Cain shall not receive the priesthood, until the time of that redemption. Any man having one drop of the seed of Cain in him cannot receive the priesthood; but the day will come when all that race will be redeemed and possess all the blessings which we now have. I am opposed to the present system of slavery.” (Wilford Woodruff, His Life and Labors, comp. Matthias F. Cowley, p.351)
The church as a whole has never been racists, we have only followed the Lord’s will in faith, praying with hope and love for his blessings upon all of us.
How glorious the blessings of the Lord to live in this dispensation of the fullness of times and to have a prophet on the earth today who can receive revelation.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
The Temple and the Atonement
Sacrifice for temples early in church history
Now go with me back to a place called Kirtland, Ohio, and recall the time when the people were asking "Why, O why when we hardly have enough for hominy and milk do we have to build a temple? What is a temple? And why at such great cost?" At one point the prophet replied, "Even the Angel Gabriel couldn't explain it to you now, the why of temples. But have faith and continue and the Lord will make it plain." Alma 32:21-22 Faith in things hoped for of things unseen. He first wants us to believe in his word.
Well, according to the late Elder John A. Widtsoe, the cost of that temple, using the measuring rod of the widow's mite—meaning, what they had proportional to what they gave—the Kirtland Temple cost more per capita than any building in American religious history.
Sacrificial faith was needed to build it; sacrificial faith is what Jesus demonstrated in his atonement. Sacrificial faith is what is required of us today.
Why must we show sacrificial faith? – To prove to him our commitment and diligence.
One Sunday when the prophet was speaking to a congregation he pointed to the unfinished Kirtland temple, which at the time was only about 4 feet off the ground. He pointed to it and said, “The lord has commanded us to build that temple, we want to build it. But we have not the means to do so. There are people in this city who have the means, but they will not let us have them. What should we do with such people? I say, damn them”, and then he sat down. Now you have to realize that the word damn in Joseph Smith’s vocabulary isn’t the same as what it means in popular parlance. To be damned is to be stopped in all your progress, and nothing stops you faster than a narrow heart. So he sat down and so the next day several people came forward with their means.
The question is how often do we need to be counseled and persuaded before we choose to serve and sacrifice? Are we anxiously engaged? How do we do it?-Sacrifice in service
There were many who did sacrifice willingly. One such man was a convert from New York named John Tanner. There was a time in the middle of construction of the Kirtland temple a foreclosure was threatened because of our poverty as a church; they would have taken out of our hands the unfinished temple. This man, John Tanner came forward and paid the money that kept it going.
The Kirtland temple was an unprecedented sacrifice! All that sacrifice was met, with an unprecedented outpouring of the Lord's Spirit.
At its completion and dedication, there was such a joyful feeling and the people went from house to house to visit each other. They would share their experiences. Many saw visions and angels and a glow around the temple as if it were on fire. Then they would give blessings to each other. One of them wrote in his journal that he thought the Millennium had come. He thought all temptation and all trial was past, even the desire for sin.
The prophet had to stand up on one occasion and say, in effect, "Brothers and sisters, this is all of God, but the opposite will come. There will be new onslaughts of trial." To the twelve he said specifically, "God will feel after you, and He will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings, and, if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom of God."
That was all too prophetic. Within months there were new apostasies and bitterness: One-half of the saints who were at the time faithful fell away. Six members of the Twelve also apostatized. Of the remaining six, four had times of trouble and disaffection. The wrench came. Of the twelve, Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball were the only ones who did not wavier and yet the sacrifice was just as difficult for them.
Our scriptures tell us, after great trials, come the blessings. On the other side of that, after great blessings come further trials. It seems to be the nature of life. You can all testify from your own experience.
Why must it be that way?
It must be so, as to prove our faith. If we are not proved or like gold seven times tried in the fire we are not ready for the Celestial Kingdom. Some ask, but why? Why must it be so hard? Well isn’t anything worth having worth working for? People must learn all about dentistry through university and training before they become dentists. As well, children of God must learn all about the plan of salvation through the gospel and get training through service and sacrifice in faith before they become exalted.
Are we up to the task? Will we do what it takes to become exalted?
Yet, after all their sacrifice we were driven out of Ohio. They tried three different times in Missouri to dedicate places for temples, but they were never able to get a shovel into the ground to start building.
Does anyone know where those three places were?
They dedicated sites in Independence, in Adam-ondi-Ahman and in Far West. It wasn’t until Nauvoo, after having been through many trials and even prison for some of them including Joseph and Hyrum were they able to undertake the actual construction of a temple.
A story of the faith of Joseph Smith
So they come Nauvoo, at the time it was called commerce, it was pretty much a swamp which led to many of them contracting malaria. It was all they could get. They had very little money because of having suffered many trials and persecutions. They get to Nauvoo and there’s a Mr. White there who is willing to sell them his farm for $2500. $500 needed as down payment and the balance one year hence. Joseph and the brethren talk about the offer, and the brethren say, “we can’t buy it for lack of money.” Joseph takes out his purse, empties it contents and gives to one of the brethren a half dollar, which he declined. Joseph urged him to take it. He then gave the rest of the brethren a similar amount, which left him penniless. Joseph then said, “Brethren, now you all have money, and I have none, but the time will come when I will have money and you will have none.” Then he said to Bishop Knight, “You go back and buy the farm.” Bishop Knight went back to Mr. White but learned that in the mean time he had raised the price $100. So he returned to Joseph without closing the deal. Joseph again sent him and said, “You buy the farm!” When he returned White had raised the price another hundred so he came back without closing the deal. The third time, Joseph commanded him to buy the farm and told him, “Do not come back until you have done it.” When he went back, White had raised it another hundred, but this time he closed the bargain. The next morning, Joseph and the brethren sat down with Mr. White at the agreement table. They still had no money for a down payment. The papers were put out and then Joseph moves away from the table and puts his head down as if in thought. Just then a man drives up in a carriage, comes to the door and says, “Is there a Mr. Smith here?” “Yes says Joseph”, and goes to the door. “Good morning Mr. Smith, I’m on speculation today, I want to buy some land, I thought I would come and see you.” Joseph then pointed to some land he owned. The man said, “I can’t go with you today to see it, but do you want any money this morning?” Joseph replied, “Yes, I would like some!” “How much” says the man. “Five hundred dollars.” The man walked into the house emptied a sack of gold and counted out five hundred dollars. He then handed Joseph another hundred and said, “Mr. Smith I make you a present of this.” Joseph laughed at the brethren and said, “You trusted in money, I trusted in God, now I have money and you have none!”
Now that’s faith that the lord will provide if we sacrifice. We all know how much they all sacrificed and suffered, especially Joseph.
So they settled in and begin right away to build the Nauvoo temple. It took everyone’s time and energies for nearly three years. And how long was it actually used? Less than six weeks after its formal dedication. It cost them about a million dollars. That’s genuine sacrifice!
How could the Prophet have led them to make this tremendous sacrifice for just six weeks? That temple was ripped as it were from its roots, destroyed by fire and then a cyclone. Then they made the rough trip west. They came across the plains into the Salt Lake valley. There was one tree in that valley and it was dead, and the day after they arrived, Brigham went forward and with his cane said, "Here we will build a temple of our God." I can only imagine what some of the saints were thinking. It stands there today. It took forty years to build it. Three other temples were finished before it was.
Why all this effort? – The ordinances of the temple are the most important and most crucial things for our eternal life. In them lies the deepest answers and purpose of our life. There consequences are eternal.
Well early in Nauvoo he introduced the doctrine of baptism for the dead. He said, "This is your privilege: You can go into the waters of baptism for your loved ones." He added another phrase, "and for those whom we have much friendship for."
The instant reaction to that sermon was that people rushed down to the Mississippi river (the temple wasn't finished, and the font wasn't finished), and began baptisms for about a hundred people. No witnesses, no records, women were baptized for men, men for women, and the Prophet literally had to run down to the river and say, "Wait, wait, we have to do this in order."
It’s this kind of desire I want to emphasize. What about those you truly love? Do you want to bring to them the same blessings you have received?
The prophet died before the Nauvoo temple was finished. How or when did he confer all the keys, authorities, powers and instruction of the ordinances of the temple?
The last charge meeting! We could do a whole lesson on that meeting. March 26 1944. He rolled off the responsibility to the twelve. He particularly commissioned Brigham Young and Wilford Woodruff with the truths of the temple endowment and gave them the responsibility to put it in order so it could be presented in the temple. There’s an actual audio recording of Willford Woodruff from 1893 I believe. They brought the first kind of recorder know to them, to him and he began to speak into it by bearing his testimony. In that testimony he referred to the charge that Joseph Smith had given him. He said “That charge is still ringing in my ears.” I’ve heard that audio over and over again. It’s very scratchy and hard to make out, but there is an amazing abiding spirit in it. They did it. They fulfilled the charge. We are the blessed recipients.
Aside from work for the dead, and aside from our own privileges, the temple is a place of learning and the only place for some kinds of learning that go directly to our spirits, to our core, to our very depths. "A house of learning" says section 88.
How is it a house of learning? – We are given instruction in a place so close to God that he can teach us intimately through his spirit, the simplest truths and the deepest mysteries.
Elder John A. Widtsoe, in an article titled "Temple Worship," says, "The endowment is so richly symbolic that only a fool would attempt to describe it; it is so packed full of revelations to those who exercise their strength to seek and see, that no human words can explain or make clear the possibilities; the endowment which was given by revelation can best be understood by revelation."
What are the Mysteries of Godliness? - The ordinances of the temple and their deepest symbolic meaning.
"O, I beseech you," says Joseph Smith, "go forward and search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of godliness." It is a commandment.
Why are we to search in the house of God?
Because the temple is dedicated to that purpose, because there we make covenants to be true to what we understand, not just learning out of curiosity but absorbing into our souls what we need to understand. And there we covenant to keep these sacred things sacred.
Joseph Smith wrote from Liberty Jail, "The things of God are of deep import and time and experience and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind O man if thou wilt lead a soul into salvation must search into and contemplate the darkest abyss and the broad expanse of eternity, thou must commune with God."
The desire to serve is driven by what principle? - Love
There is an intimate, spiritual connection with our ancestors. You can feel it in the temple. You feel it when you read their stories. It is by their sacrifices that we enjoy our freedom today. The sacrifice of the early saints prepared the way, and the men and women of war who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. We are bound to them and them to us. Now, how can we sacrifice to give them freedom? The freedom they never got to enjoy. Perhaps we are here to respond, by serving in the temple and doing for them what they can not do for themselves. We owe them; they sacrificed everything so that we could have all that we have. In the temple soul meets soul, thought meets thought, love meets love.
We do not fully comprehend what a blessing these ordinances are to them. Joseph Smith taught, that at the resurrection, they will fall at the feet of those who have done their work, kiss their feet, embrace their knees, and manifest the most exquisite gratitude.
Do we understand the deepest secret? Joseph taught “The love of family is the deepest secret of all!” Our feelings may surprise us when we reach the other side and all things are brought to our remembrance.
Brother Brigham Young was once approached by two sisters, each of whom wanted a divorce. I paraphrase his response: "If you could only see your husband as he will be in the glorious resurrection, this very husband you now say you despise, your first impulse would be to kneel and worship him." He said the same thing to husbands who had "fallen out of love" with their wives. Those are mighty words.
Who will receive it?
Wilford Woodruff who dedicated the Salt Lake Temple taught that "there will be few if any who will not receive the ordinances of the temple when they are performed for them."
Elder John W. Taylor, while attending the Manti Temple dedication, concluded that only one in ten would refuse the ordinances. He added, "how many who are kept in prison are not ready to come out?"
I’ve heard some say ignorantly; well, their work will all be done in the millennium so we don’t need to worry so much now. They’ve missed the point all together!
Imagine a loved one choking and you have the ability to help them. How long would you let them suffer? How long will we make our ancestors wait in prison? We must seek out this principle of love. This is what the atonement is all about. Love! He suffered for us so we don’t have to. He had the ability and power to save us and he did it.
What does he ask of us in return? Mat 22:36-39
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself
How can we love God and our neighbors in the temple? - By performing their necessary sacred ordinances.
The temple is also the most practical of places. Melvin J. Ballard taught that each one of us should be willing to take to the temple our worst problems, and he was talking about hard, down-to-earth, even physical problems. You pray, you fast. But if you don't get your answer, he said, I'll tell what to do: go to the house of the Lord, and in the silence of those precincts, as you are serving others, the Lord will bless you.
We are promised that in the temple the Lord's name will be put upon us. It means at root that we become his. The answer to "Who am I?" can never be complete unless it answers "Whose am I?" You are the son or daughter of a king. The Father himself. Through the ordinances you are begotten spiritually through his Son. You become heir to his throne.
To receive him fully is to receive the fullness of his atonement. Think about it—the at-one-ment that Jesus Christ wrought by the shedding of his own blood. The atonement was, and is, to enable us to overcome through his grace and healing power three things: Ignorance, sin, and death. The temple is then a matter of life and death.
The temple is many things: a house of faith, a house of study, a house of learning, a house of order, a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of glory. But surrounding all of those, it is a house of love. None of us receives enough love in this world, none of us. We're all in a measure love-starved and love-anxious. The Father and the Son call us to come in the spirit of sacrifice and be surrounded by that holy environment which embraces us in love.
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how oft I would have gathered you, as a hen gathereth her chicks and ye would not."
I testify that temples have been built by the sacrifice of our friends and loved ones to enable us to reach them to be their saviors on Mount Zion. As well to help us reach the deepest part of ourselves. The lord has sacrificed himself for all, and is our savior through his atonement. I testify that in the house of the Lord, he, the Lord himself will manifest himself in mercy and in love and give us the fullness of those blessings we all earnestly yearn for. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.