Notes for my writing

This blog is made up of notes on the gospel as found in the only true and living church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This includes notes that are either excerpts from or ideas for books I either have in draft or may yet write.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Joseph Fielding McConkie on Christ as the Son of God

Loved this discussion from Joseph Fielding McConkie's "Valiant in the Testimony of Jesus" (page 96)

"It is not sufficient for us to testify that Jesus is the Christ; our testimony must embrace the verity that he is the Son of God. This is the key that unlocks the revelations of heaven to us, as it did for Peter. Another classic illustration of this principle comes from Nephi, in his explanation of how his father unlocked the heavens to receive the revelation that Nephi then sought to obtain. "He spake," Nephi said, "by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he recieved by faith on the Son of God - and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come"

"All true religion is based on the testimony that Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, is actually and literally the Son of God. This doctrine is the key that unlocks the right to revelation and the meaning of all the revelations of heaven." ...

D&C 1 warnings and modern ideals

I was struck by the wording of this revelation recently.

D&C 1:12 Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh;
 13 And the anger of the Lord is kindled, and his sword is bathed in heaven, and it shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth.
 14 And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people;
 15 For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant;
 16 They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.

The statements here are simple enough. The Lord's anger is kindled. Kindling is a reference to a fire that is just being ignited. It refers to the time at which the revelation was given.

Verse 16 is particularly interesting. Every man walks in his own way. While the Lord saw that was true in Joseph Smith's day when the revelation given, in modern days this has become a cultural cornerstone that even many church members will endorse. It is the false teaching that "everyone has to find his own path". It is often used to argue against church doctrines and standards with phrases like "there is no one size fits all".

Every man walks after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of he world. While many were externally claiming to seek the Lord's will when this revelation, the Lord knew that wasn't the reality. The reality was that in their hearts the people of the world where looking to the world for their ideas about God and following that false God in place of the real thing.

Whose substance is that of an idol. If you let the world determine what you think God is like, then you are worshiping a figment of your imagination, and not the true and living God. In that case, what you are worshiping has no more reality to it than an idol or statue does.

Which waxeth old and shall perish. Of necessity, worship of such substitutes will bring no eternal rewards. They prove to be as temporary as anything else of this earth.

The Lord could see the reality of what was happening in Joseph Smith's days. He could look into the hearts of the people. In these days some of the things warned against here have grown from truths hidden in the darkened corners of worldly men's hearts into a public frenzy. "Every man walks in his own way" is no longer so much a warning as a beloved standard - a cornerstone of a corrupted society.

Musing on Isaiah seeing the Lord

The account in 2 Nephi 16 (and Isaiah 6) is interesting.

1 In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
2 Above it stood the seraphim; each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
3 And one cried unto another, and said: Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.
4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
5 Then said I: Wo is unto me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips; and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.
6 Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar;
7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said: Lo, this has touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

Certainly we see the atonement in here. But Isaiah knew Christ far better than I do. As one of the most notable of all prophets I am sure he understood the atonement many times better than I ever will. He was baptized before having this experience. He was worthy to be a prophet. It appears that from that alone he wasn't prepared for this. There was greater cleansing necessary beyond what was initially offered at baptism.

Just as we see in Isaiah's vision, the cleanliness offered at baptism isn't the full measure available through the atonement. Otherwise we wouldn't read such things as

Alma 13: 11 Therefore they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb.
 12 Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Where have Joseph's friend all gone?

I love Brigham Young. I wish he could have given his response to Rough Stone Rolling. Where have Joseph's friends all gone? I wouldn't read such a book about one I call a friend. I want to look Joseph Smith in the eye when I meet him, and know we are friends already. I want him to know I was true to him.
Harold B Lee said in general conference:
"I have one other thought I should like to express. Brigham Young was a great defender of the Prophet Joseph Smith. There were Judases in the ranks in that day, just as there were in the Savior’s day, and just as we have today, some who are members of the Church who are undercutting us, who are betraying their trusts. We are shocked when we see the places from which some of these things come.
Brigham Young was invited by some of these men who were trying to depose the Prophet Joseph from his position as President of the Church; but they made a mistake by inviting President Brigham Young into their circle. And after he had listened to what their motives were, he said something to this effect: 'I want to say something to you men. You cannot destroy the appointment of a prophet of God, but you can cut the thread that binds you to the prophet of God, and sink yourselves to hell.'
There was a pugilist there by the name of Jacob Bump, so the story goes, who doubled up his fists and started toward President Young, who replied to this man’s threats: 'I would like to lay hands on a man like you in defense of the Prophet Joseph Smith.'"

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Faith and Science

This was originally posted on facebook, June 12, 2014. I moved it here because old things are hard to find on facebook. 
Those who are learned may wonder why the Lord would allow such a wide gap between what he reveals to be true and what the sciences claim to be the true, e.g. the theory of evolution which claims that 2 of the 3 pillars of eternity are pure myth (the world created in a paradisiacal, terrestrial state without death or procreation ,which world then fell to a telestial state as a result of Adam and Eve's choice and through that fall aging, procreation and death entered the world).
The Lord cannot create the kind of faith in members that can root up a sycamime tree and command it to be planted in the sea if the members are not willing to have faith that is above and beyond their belief in what they learned from physics, chemistry, biology or any other earthly science. It is like Joseph Smith trying to get the golden plates (though his was a different issue) which required his casting aside all competing interests. The Lord wants us to cast aside all doubt, all belief that anything can supercede or be more correct or more true than God's revelations and the gentle whisperings of the spirit. Everything else must be recognized as completely inferior. As Elder Scott pointed out, as we follow God's path we will in time believe the Holy Ghost above what our ears and eyes tell us. The learned man who believes in what he learned about physical death more than he believes in revealed truth will have a near impossible time overcoming that mote of doubt that would allow him to return the dead to life. Sure, he can adminster to the sick, but he has capped his faith, he has set up stakes for the almighty (to borrow a Joseph Smith phrase) and has said "here you can go and no further" to God.
In the end the sciences will all prove to support the revelations, not the other way round. But until then, I think it is very intentional that they just keep disagreeing on the key points of revealed religion. That is necessary for us. We must learn to completely subject our belief in any and all of the learning of man to the revelations of God. So he makes sure we are put in the position were we must make exactly that choice.
The sciences will only really take off when God reigns personally on the earth, and everything we "know" now will be as primitive as counting on one's fingers. And it will be the revelations, not the ideas of men, which will be found to be perfect and unflawed when all the great truths about the universe are finally unfolded. God will not be apologizing for his prophets, but will confirm again that whether by his own voice, or by the voice of his servants, it is the same.


Kristopher Swinson posted the following quote from Bruce R McConkie as a comment on the original post.

"Will the Lord give us the full and revealed account of the creation as long as we believe in the theories of evolution? Will he give us more guidance in governmental affairs as long as we choose socialistic ways which lead to the overthrow of freedom? We have yet to attain that degree of obedience and personal righteousness which will give us faith like the ancients: faith to multiply miracles, move mountains, and put at defiance the armies of nations; faith to quench the violence of fire, divide seas and stop the mouths of lions; faith to break every band and to stand in the presence of God. Faith comes in degrees. Until we gain faith to heal the sick, how can we ever expect to move mountains and divide seas? . . . As long as we disagree as to the simple and easy doctrines of salvation, how can we ever have unity on the complex and endless truths yet to be revealed? . . . How many among us are now prepared to entertain angels, to see the face of the Lord, to go where God and Christ are and be like them?" (Bruce R McConkie, "This Final Glorious Gospel Dispensation" Ensign, Apr. 1980, 25)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Working mothers and the rich young man

I think we have lived so long in luxury we have redefined it all to be necessity. If we are willing to put the luxuries out of our hearts, then I firmly believe many, many women who think they need to work would find they did not. We are as the rich young man who are given a commandment that would require us to live outside the luxury that surrounds us, and then go away sorrowing because of our many things.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

What constitutes a chance to hear the gospel, out of the books which shall be written

Up until yesterday I would have asserted that no one knows what constitutes a "chance" to hear the gospel. I was also less certain what the various statements to the effect that a people would be judged by the book that were written meant.

But then I was reading in Mosiah 3. An angel appeared to King Benjamin and gave him words to teach the people about redemption through Christ. It then states:

Mosiah 3:22 And even at this time, when thou shalt have taught thy people the things which the Lord thy God hath commanded thee, even then are they found no more blameless in the sight of God, only according to the words which I have spoken unto thee.

There we have a clear statement. His teachings constituted a "chance" to accept the gospel. That is what the phrase "they are no more blameless" refers to. When he delivered these words to the people, "even then are they found no more blameless in the sight of God, only according to the words which I have spoken unto thee". Put differently, starting from that point they are no more blameless, unless they actually accept his words, and partake of the redemption of Christ through repentance and baptism.

We then get a fuller explanation of how this works, as well as an explanation of how a people are judged by the books which are written.

Mosiah 3:23 And now I have spoken the words which the Lord God hath commanded me.
 24 And thus saith the Lord: They shall stand as a bright testimony against this people, at the judgment day; whereof they shall be judged, every man according to his works, whether they be good, or whether they be evil.

These words which were taught to them will also testify against them if they fail to accept them. "They shall stand as a bright testimony against this people at the judgement day". Interestingly, it still states that they will be judged according to their works. They would be judged on what works they chose, based on the words that were given to them.

It sounds like the teachings about being judged out of the books which shall be written is at least in part a statement that they will be judged by the inspired teachings they had among them. Such teachings will "stand as a bright testimony" against those who reject them.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Patriarchal blessings

We all know our patriarchal blessing both bestows a blessing upon us, and also ties us back to an ancestor and bestows that ancestors blessing to us. That seems to be a much more general principle.

Why is our lineage declared? So we know whose blessing applies to us, we all know the different tribes have different responsibilities and that those responsibilities are pointed to in their patriarchal blessings (which we seem to only have fragments of in Genesis 49). Even without the whole blessing, being known to us, the blessings are still bestowed, just at the Lamanites receive blessings they are completely unaware of because of promises made to their ancestors.

But what is patriarchal about patriarchal blessings. It isn't just that the person who gives them is called a patriarch. The point is, the reason we learn our lineage and whose blessing we receive is, that what is patriarchal about patriarchal blessings is that they are inherited. Presumably, given that it is called Patriarchal, inherited from our fathers.

Thus, yes, there were patriarchal blessings before the days of Abraham. As long as one had worthy fathers to inherit blessings from, there was purpose in understanding patriarchal blessings. This is something we king of intuitively recognize in the scriptures, but not in modern days.

For example, Joseph's patriarchal blessing is found in Genesis 49 along with his brothers. The blessings of Ephraim and Manassah are not recorded there. But we have no question that if we are from either of those tribes that Joseph's blessing applies to us, just as his brothers blessings each apply to themselves, but also describe the responsibility of their tribe of descendents for many generations. The fact that it is the twelve sons of Israel whose blessings are described again suggests that patriarchal blessings are inherited through Fathers.

I think Joseph Fielding McConkie used word's similar to this. You can take your ancestor's patriarchal blessings and staple them onto the end of your own. The point being that they apply to yourself. (I don't recall whether he was talking about father-line ancestors or not).

Friday, November 7, 2014

Judgement and our neightbor

I recently wrote on judging righteous judgement, knowing good and evil, or put differently, judging correctly between good and evil.

Our society has a frenzied passion for "not judging". Any opposition is immediately turned into a straw man and burned at the stake. I have no difficulty imagining that someone reading my previous post would respond by saying "Well, what would it be like if everyone was always telling everyone else everything they thought they did wrong?"

But this is just making the scriptural teachings on the matter into a straw man. The scriptures don't say you need to go and inform everyone of all of their flaws, real or imagined. It is one thing to learn to judge rightly between good and evil. It is another thing to directly inform your neighbor of all of their personal flaws.

When it comes to our neighbors and judgement:

1. We have an obligation to pass over one another's petty faults. No, that was Not what Christ was talking about when he said "Judge not lest ye be judged" and where the JST clarifies his meaning we can see that quite clearly. But we still do have a real obligation to pass over each other's petty faults. Even though it wasn't how Christ used the phrase "judge not", that phrase does get used from time for our obligation to pass over one another's faults. It is a real obligation that is critical for building the kingdom of God in a world of imperfect people. We all have flaws. To build a Zion society in the church we must pass over all those petty flaws as we hope they will pass over ours. But, once again, while there is a real obligation to pass over each others petty flaws, that was not what Christ was talking about when he said "Judge not lest ye be judged". He was teaching that we need to call good good and to call evil evil. He was teaching that in order to do that we need to surrender our world's notions of good and evil in favor of his by seeking them out in the scriptures and the light of inspiration.

2. We have an obligation to teach the truth and save souls. That includes an obligation to warn against evil actions, as well as to warn against evil influences and the consequences of sin. We cannot stand idly by and let someone lose their exaltation. We mustn't become like the many Christian churches President Kimball referred to when he referred to "...many steepled edifices in which the word sin has not been mentioned for a long time, and a preachment against it cannot be remembered." We must not hesitate to preach against evil so that our youth can guard against it. They need those who can discern better than themselves to teach them what to avoid in no uncertain terms. Our adult members need this just as much. After all, it wasn't just the youth that fell away from the path in Lehi's dream if they failed to hold to the iron rod. Nonmembers also need a knowledge of right from wrong. Basic right and wrong are the basis for a society, and hence society as a whole needs those things taught. We must teach truth, and to do so, we must not hesitate to call good good, and to call evil evil.

Someone might feel like I was being dishonest when I said that the phrase "Judge not" is sometimes used to preach our genuine obligation to pass over one another's petty flaws. After all, they might say, it isn't used that way just "sometimes", that is how it is almost always used.

But that isn't the case.

Far, far more commonly, the phrase "judge not" is used to directly contradict Christ's teachings on judgement. Christ teaches that we judge righteous judgement, that we surrender our notions of good and evil in favor of his. To do so we must search the scriptures, seeking diligently in the light of Christ for what is good and what is evil.

The phrase "judge not" is used most commonly to directly contradict the teachings of the Savior and the scriptures on judgement. It is used to mean that instead of calling good good and calling evil evil, we should never call anything evil. It effectively teaches us to call evil good, since it paralyzes our ability to preach against anything evil.

The phrase "judge not" is also used very frequently to call good evil. It is used to condemn anyone discerning between good and evil and stating the difference as "judgemental". It is similarly used to condemn anyone teaching the commandments, particularly those involving morality.

In our society the phrase "judge not" is most commonly used to preach directly against Christ's own teachings on judgement.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The atonement, suffering and sin

This time in the worlds history is unrivaled in the ease, convenience, and comfort which is available to many.

But we seem to have more to say about our pain and suffering, and the difficulty of life. We, the regular members, seem far more obsessed about how to endure hardship than the authors of the Book of Mormon were.

We have become increasingly fascinated with our own mortal pains and difficulties. Our focus on this life, on the here and now, seems to be becoming increasingly greater than our focus on Eternal reward. Consequently our pains and trials, which affect our mortality, seem to be becoming much more interesting to us than our sins, which can affect our eternity.

Christ's teaching was marked in his greater concern for eternal matters than mortal ones. He often speaks of the irrelevance of mortal difficulties in view of eternal rewards.

His story of Lazarus and the rich man clothed in purple robes certainly illustrates that.

Luke 16:25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.

His teachings in the sermon on the mount also show this.

Matt 6:19 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.

In fact, this emphasis on Eternal life as being the one dominant concern above all the concerns of this life is all through Christ's teachings.

Matthew 5:10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Here he actually tells people to rejoice when facing the most ironic and biting of mortal persecutions because they come with eternal reward.

Our increasing shift as a people in the opposite direction, to a focus from the eternal consequences of sin to a focus on mortal problems, is accompanied by a shift in our emphasis on the atonement. It is arguable that the atonement as a means of passing through trials has become a more frequently cited matter in our church meetings than the atonement as a redemption from sin.

Sins persist as offenses to God. Even one sin is enough to keep us out of the kingdom of Heaven. We don't have to be in the middle of committing a sin for that offense to be enough to keep us out. It is merely the fact that it ever happened. Thus we need a great intercession for sin. Someone who was sinless and would pay the redeeming price for us.

Sorrows, on the other hand, come and go. They wax and they wane. Some are trials, some are the consequences of our own follies. But sorrow itself has no bearing on whether or not we could enter the kingdom of Heaven. In particular, whether or not we have been sad at some time in the past has absolutely no bearing on whether we are worthy to enter the kingdom of Heaven. Christ never once sinned. But Christ was described in the scriptures as "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief".

Everyone knows that not all suffering is the result of sin. However, the converse statement is universally true. One way or another, sin always brings sorrow.

If we really want to be focused primarily on how to get through our sorrows and trials, we should turn from focusing on our trials to overcoming our sins. That will allow Heavenly Father to give us greater spiritual support when trials come. More importantly while that route won't free us of all sorrows, it is certainly the only real route to greater peace and joy.

Knowing good and evil, judging righteous judgment

We are here in a fallen world to know good and evil.

Moses 4:28 And I, the Lord God, said unto mine Only Begotten: Behold, the man is become as one of us to know good and evil;

Put differently, we are here to learn to correctly judge between good and evil. This is one of the main purposes of mortality, as stated from the very beginning of the world. Insofar as we learn to do that correctly, we will be able to make choices that will lead us to eternal life. Insofar as we do not, we will make choices that lead us to destruction. This was summed up by Christ in the phrase "Judge not lest ye be judged."

It may be surprising to learn that what Christ means by the phrase "Judge not lest ye be judged" is that we must learn to correctly judge good from evil or we will not gain eternal life. Where greater clarification is added by the JST the meaning becomes much clearer.

JST Matt 7:1 Now these are the words which Jesus taught his disciples that they should say unto the people.
2 Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged; but judge righteous judgment.

Thanks to the JST, the meaning of Christ's phrase here becomes much clearer. Christ's commandment here is an imperative to judge righteous judgement, and a command to abstain from judging unrighteous judgment. I repeat that judging righteous judgment is given as a commandment by Christ.

Note that judging righteous judgement is not only given as a commandment, it is given as a commandment by Christ personally, and his disciples are to teach the people to judge righteous judgement. Put differently, the people must be taught to call good good and call evil evil. They are to correctly judge right from wrong. They are to judge by the light of Christ to know good from evil as they know light from day. That is because knowing good and evil is one of the most fundamental things we have to accomplish in mortality. We are here to be as Gods, knowing good and evil. It is a critical part of the whole test of mortality. We only pass this test as we surrender our own notions of good and evil in favor of Christ's.

Judging righteously is using God's judgement to determine what is right and what is wrong. It can be accomplished by searching diligently in the light of Christ.

The Lord says "judgement is mine". He knows right and wrong perfectly. Righteous judgement is to judge as the Lord judges, by searching in the scriptures and the light of Christ for his inspiration. When we judge by revelation, we always judge righteous judgement.

We are not taking judgement away from God if we judge a matter by his word or by the light of Christ. We are doing the opposite, we are leaving judgement in his hand, seeking his judgement of the matter and accepting that rather than judging by our own wisdom, or even worse, by worldy philosophies and ideas.

The person who refuses to acknowledge good as good, or to acknowledge evil as evil is breaking Christ's commandments on judging. They are not judging righteous judgement. They are not calling good good, or calling evil evil.

More commonly, the commandment to "not judge" is tacitly taken to mean that saying anything is wrong is evil. That is actually judging unrighteous judgement, and violates Christ's commandments on judging. That is because it universally misjudges everything evil. Calling evil good, or even refusing to call it evil, is not righteous judgement. It is taking judgement away from Christ, and using a worldly idea to judge in his place.

We must turn to him for our judgement of good and evil, surrendering our worldly notions or right and wrong completely to his inspiration and scripture. Then we can judge righteous judgement, as he commanded. Then we can avoid being judged, because we will know good and evil and know how to choose the good.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Scripture study note - What is the earthly state of the wicked?

I was looking up a scripture and ran across the following, which clearly contradicts some popular ideas.

Of the Telestial the Lord states:

D&C 76:103 These are they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie.
 104 These are they who suffer the wrath of God on earth.
 105 These are they who suffer the vengeance of eternal fire.

Note particularly verse 104. According to the Lord, those that are heading toward hell in eternity also suffer God's wrath here in mortality. It states "These are they who suffer the wrath of God on earth."