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.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Gender Apostasy

We are paying the price more and more as we forget one of the basic realities of mortality.

Sin gives Satan power over people.

A more refined statement is important in this day when big sins are common: Big sin gives Satan big power over people. Little sin gives Satan a little power over people.

This power is not limited to power to tempt them. 

The scriptures give examples of Satan stirring up people to anger against a cause. Certainly the adversary stirred people up to anger against Joseph Smith and the early saints. 

The scriptures give examples of Satan lulling people into false security.

The scriptures say there are doctrines of devils and doctrines of men. How could there be doctrines of devils if the devil can't inspire wicked men with ideas?

However Sin is not necessary for Satan to be able to offer temptations to people. The sinless Christ was tempted.

A person may be tempted with practically anything.

Anytime we reject a truth from God, Satan takes power.
The more fundamental the truth we reject, the more power Satan takes.

If a mother rejects her nature as a mother and kills her unborn child, that is rejection of a deep fundamental truth, and Satan will have a river of power to exercise against her. Such rejection doesn't come from nowhere. It start with temptations not to treasure her child. The mother considered those temptations. She gave them sway in her thoughts. And ultimately she performed the ultimate rejection of motherhood by killing her own child. This is apostasy from motherhood. It rejects fundamental truth, it rejects the person's own nature, it rejects something she knows with more clarity than members usually even know the church is true.

Apostasy isn't failing to recognize that something is true. It is knowing it strongly and rejecting that truth. 

The worst apostasy is the sort that can look at the sun at noon day and deny that exists.

And this is the sort of apostasy that gender apostasy is all about. It is no harder to realize the sun exists while looking at it than it is to recognize your own gender. Rejecting your own gender as real and true is the same type of apostasy as denying the sun exist while looking directly at it.

If someone rejects his or her own gender, that is profound rejection of the truth of the person's own eternal nature, and it will give Satan profound power over that individual. It starts with temptations of course. Satan pulls on the persons's thoughts and tries to get them to question their own gender. He plants ideas and seeds to see if he can undermine their defenses. If he can get them questioning fundamental truth about their own nature, if he can get them to question that divine and eternal truth, then he gains significant power over them in doing so, and his ability to influence them is increased. They may find themselves feeling such ideas more powerfully. Such compulsions may feel more real, and the truth may seem less likely. This is no different than when Satan gets a faithful member to reject any other of the foundational truths that they know, such as getting a member with a strong testimony to begin to question the truthfulness of the church. The more they question, the more power Satan gains, and the more and more it seems to the person that the church cannot be true.

When Satan gets someone to question their own gender, it is just like when he is getting someone with a strong testimony to question the truthfulness of the church. That is because their gender is a a divine and eternal truth that they already know perfectly. It is a rejection of a known eternal truth, not a failure to recognize truth. It is apostasy.

Someone who has rejected his or her own gender really shouldn't be taking the sacrament and particularly not entering the temple. One need only consider the nature of the requirements to enter the temple. No, you can't go to the temple if you put aside your holy garments. How much worse to put off the temple God clothed you with than to put off the outward vesture that clothes that body? 

Yes, we really do care what someone thinks. Alma says as much. We will be held accountable for our thoughts. We particularly care when those thoughts move to beliefs, and start being more than thoughts, but become words.

Rejecting the opposite gender is another popular form of gender apostasy. It isn't really that different. The scriptures use these words

Romans 1:26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

Gender apostasy is serious sin. One really only needs to think of the tortured lives those involved in it tend to lead to realize this. Far from the peace of the gospel they endure the pains and travails of hell, insofar as we endure those pains in mortality when we are involved in evil. You cannot reject the most fundamental divine truths about yourself, you cannot reject the temple of God that he gifted you: your own body with its own nature to cleave unto a member of the opposite sex, without being apostate. You cannot reject the temple of God, which temple you are, your own body and gender, and still be worthy to enter the temple of God which is his own home on the earth. You cannot reject your own body, your own flesh and blood, gifted you by God and be worthy to partake of the flesh and blood of that God who granted and redeemed your body. 

There is a reason we call it being "Born of the Spirit"

There is a reason we call it being "Born of the Spirit".

It seems from the scriptures that we are forgiven through the cleansing power of the atonement, but we are changed though the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost. Yes, if our guilt vanishes it is because of Christ. But there is a reason we talk of being "born of the spirit". It is too bad that these days everyone wants to remove the Holy Ghost from the picture. Without remission of sins we could not receive the Holy Ghost. We cannot move forward one step one the path to redemption without the atonement.
But it is through the Holy Ghost that the Father bears witness of the Son, i.e. it the through the Holy Ghost that the sanctifying effect that makes us more like the Son comes about.
Don't know why it has become a fad to try to replace the role of the Holy Ghost and make it all the Savior. But Christ himself talks about the changing effect of the Father sending the Holy Ghost. And of the comfort available through the Holy Ghost.
Oh well.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

We must protect our religious freedom

Wow. Indiana passed a protection for Religious freedom bill. 

Yesterday CNN announced this on their front page list of articles as "Indiana passes Anti-LGBT bill". 

By this afternoon their website's fullpage front was about the Indiana bill with a headline pointing its finger at the governor for signing it. 

By tonight it has in large newpaper style headline font about the religious freedom protection bill: "Freedom to do what?" with a picture of the Indiana governor and a subheading that the governor has now decided he wants clarification of the bill he just signed.

I really expect we can anticipate more difficult days in our future. I don't know when. I don't know the timeline. But it seems that the evil forces in our country are not only pushing forward, but doing so with great acceleration.

We need to remember the horrible price that was paid to gain our religious freedom. There is no "new world" to flee to now. There are no "rocky mountains" to flee to now. We need to make our stand here. We need to stand up and be counted now with all the zeal we can muster.

We sit perched on the brink of disaster, and mostly we are comfortably sitting at home looking for what's on TV.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Body, the Resurrection, and the Sealing

This is a first stab at some aspect of the resurrection, and I realized some things while writing it. I'll have to try again some time. Take a look and see what you think.

It is hard to get people in the church to give a straightforward answer to the question "What is the significance of gaining a body"?

Consequently, many members of the church also don't understand what the resurrection is all about. If you don't understand why having a body matters, then you don't understand why being resurrected matters. Since Easter is when we celebrate the resurrection, I am writing a bit about bodies and resurrection.

After all, we are reunited with our beloved dead friends and family in the spirit world, so why not just stop there, call it heaven, and be done?

The answer can be found in a simple observation for those with children. Those with parents can determine how the observation is relevant to themselves. :)

Consider one of your children. Let us say it is a son. Now here is the question: How did your son become your son?  Could he have become your son if you didn't have a body? Or if your spouse didn't have a body? What joy do you have that would vanish if you had never had a body?

The point is that the gift of a body IS the gift of family. Family and body are synonymous. When you are born, you gain a body and by gaining that body you become part of a family. Those two things are inseparable. Birth is the process of gaining a father and a mother. Birth is the process of creating family, and creating family is accomplished by endowing a spirit with a body.

The gift of a body is the gift of family in a greater sense too. It is not only the gift to become part of a family, to become a child with parents, it is simultaneously the potential to one day create a family of your own. Our body makes us part of a family, and also makes it so that we can create a family.

The gift of a body is the gift to create a garden with your spouse that will grow up and continue to bring forth after its own kind. It is literally a gift that keeps on giving. We are given a body by birth, and in that gift we receive a family of our own that we are a child in. But that gift, if we subject it to the will of the Father, in turn then can bring forth a family of our own that is sealed to be ours not just in mortality, but in eternity.

We are commanded to multiply and replenish the earth. This is a commandment that we should shout for joy about like those at the grand counsel in Heaven. For in that commandment we not only show the required gratitude for our gift by bringing other children of Heavenly Father into a home with the gospel, and inviting them to share with us in our gift of family by becoming part of it, but it also brings later gifts: grandchildren, great, grandchildren, and descendants continuing on in perpetuity. It becomes like a well springing up unto eternal life. It develops into the gift of posterity like the sands of the sea and like the stars of heaven.

When we read the story of the resurrection of Christ as a story about a body in the abstract we are completely missing the point. The resurrection is a story about family. If the resurrection had happened but nobody was sealed eternally in the resurrection then the whole earth would have a been a big waste.

Scriptures says as much - the earth would be wasted at his coming if the families are not sealed to be families not only for time, but also in the resurrection. And why is it that it would be wasted at his coming? Because his coming IS the resurrection of the just. If everyone was resurrected but they weren't sealed into permanent families then the resurrection, as well as the earth itself, would have been wasted.

When Christ comes all the holy angels come with him. The dead will rise from the graves. But if they all rise singly and separately then the whole earth would have been wasted. The story of the resurrection is a story about creating eternal bodies for the purpose of creating eternal families. If you get your body back but you're not going to be part of a family, than you are missing out on the reason you ever wanted a body in the first place.

Put differently - a resurrection without eternal sealings that persist in the resurrection is a tragic waste. The resurrection is about families because bodies are about families. Bodies are how families got to be relatives in the first place.

I am not talking of those who are worthy and simply never had the chance to be sealed. There will be nothing that is a waste in their cases, because they will receive every blessing they missed out on through no fault of their own. That is no waste. To miss exaltation is a waste.

I have a son. How did he become my son? Through his body. My body and my spouse's body became one flesh and in obeying that commandment a new thing was created. We gained a child who is now our son.

And to really understand the gift of the body and the gift of the resurrection you have to ask yourself "What would I give so that my son would still be my son in the resurrection?"

Because if you or I prove unworthy of our temple sealing covenant then, in fact, our worthy children will no longer be our children in the resurrection. In the resurrection they will be another person's child. This will not just be a formal adoption. This will be as real in the resurrection as birth in mortality made them our child in mortality. Those worthy of the celestial kingdom will not be left fatherless and motherless.  If we are not worthy then in the resurrection our will children be given a different father and mother (one might guess a worthy ancestor), and as surely as our body tied them to us here, that father and mother's body will be tied to them there. And ours will not be. We will no longer be their parent. We will no longer be a husband or a wife. Those experiences will be lost to us.

I expect we will still have parents in the resurrection no matter which kingdom we are resurrected into. Not just Heavenly Father and Mother as parents, but parents of our body. We will still have parents in the resurrection no matter what. After all, that is the gift of a body, to become part of a family. And all who kept their first estate gain a body, and consequently all who kept their first estate will still belong to a family. But in the resurrection we may find ourselves the telestial or terrestrial child of celestial parents, which is much like the relationship we have here on earth with our Heavenly Father. Here on earth we are telestial, and he is celestial, but his is still our parent and we love that truth.

But there can be no parents in the resurrection who are not celestial exalted beings, because according to D&C 132 there will be no marriages in the resurrection that are not sealed for eternity and if you come up in the resurrection sealed for eternity then you WILL received all that the father hath. Anyone who is not exalted will remain "singly and separately forever". The only parents in the resurrection will be those who are exalted, and they will keep all their children,... though all their children may not also be celestial as well. This is no different that with Heavenly Father. He has many children. They will not all become celestial exalted beings. But they are still his children.

Birth is about family. And resurrection is about family. Resurrection that is not about family would be a waste. In fact, if no families are tied together in the resurrection, then the whole earth will be wasted at his coming. Or put differently, if no families are tied together in the resurrection then the whole earth will be wasted at the first resurrection, because that is the whole point of this earth and of the resurrection in the first place.

It is worth pointing out how rebellion has related to losing the reward of family in other cases.

Joseph Smith taught "The devil has no body and therein lies his punishment."

The devil’s punishment is to never become part of a family, and to never have the potential to create his own family. He can never be a son, he will never be a father. He will never understand the joy of wife or children. That is his great punishment.

And because of that he seeks to destroy the families of the earth, both in mortality and for eternity. Satan is the nemesis of family. Chastity is the protector of the family. Consequently Satan and chastity stand as eternal enemies against each other.

So maybe I will close with this note. Keeping our first estate allows us to gain a body and become part of a family and the resurrection makes it so that all who kept their first estate will still get their body and become part of some family for eternity. But keeping our second estate not only allows us to be part of a family, to be a child with parents, it also allows us to be married, to be parents, and to have our own families as an eternal couple out onward forever.

When we remember the resurrection of Christ. I hope we can also have the common sense to recognize that he was sealed to a woman. The resurrection is about family, and while many who did not have a chance to have a good marriage here will have the opportunity hereafter, we should have the sense to figure out who Christ could have gone to see even before ascending to his Father in Heaven.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

False Christs who will save us no matter what

Sometimes there seem to be ideals being pandered among us which are in a running competition with Protestantism and Catholicism as to who has the most powerful, most generous, most willing to save Christ. Rather than looking to the scriptures and prophets, this competition seems to be carried about primarily by presenting a cartoon caricature of the Savior by taking some of His traits and exaggerating them into a cartoon, while neglecting others of His divine aspects altogether.

Instead of a strait and narrow path, these caricatures of the Savior provide an escalator. We can only fail to be saved by climbing the railing and jumping off or running fast enough in the wrong direction. He’s going to save us, despite our best efforts to the contrary. We can put aside our self doubt and fears as there is no need to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” with these false versions of the Savior. There is no cause to fret that we might lose our way and frankly, isn’t it so much easier knowing that He’s going to save us and there is hardly anything we can do to stop him. Be excellent to each other and party on.

Sometimes one almost feels these different false Christs are running for office, each with their own platform that sounds better than the one from last year. Before casting our vote, we should instead turn to the scriptures and the words of living prophets and apostles to determine what we can about the real Christ as He really is.

It shouldn't be a surprise that these caricatures of the Savior are being presented all around us. Christ himself warned that false Christ's would come and would deceive many.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Decency - the foundational virtue of a good society

A people that has rejected decency as a cornerstone both in law and in daily life has rejected the foundation on which the family and the great virtues are built. Unless such a society repents the other sacred virtues such as faith, justice, judgement, mercy, charity, commitment to children and to spouse, and all the other virtues that divinely define the family eventually succumb. Those virtues cannot stand long once one removes decency from the center stage.

Indeed, it is because of iniquity that the love of many has waxed cold.

Teaching children about missionary work and the poor of the earth

I have mused for some time how unfortunate it is that we no longer do missionary presentations when missionaries come home. I think hearing about someone being taught the gospel and changing their life changes missionary work from an academic duty into the reality of saving souls, and doing that helps one move away from the idea that it is a two year experience.

I realized youtube should have some missionary slideshows. Most of them are pretty lame - i.e. a bazillion pictures of a missionary and his companions. Who wants to see that?

But I found a few good ones, and most notably a channel devoted to missionary stories. Playing one of these occasionally as part of scripture study has been one of those things that has been profound in our family I think, so I wanted to pass it on.

I think this one had a profound effect in changing the meaning of missionary work for our children

I liked this one (no words, and I swapped out the music )

I stopped it at several points and pointed out what the homes looked like to the kids, and went over the D&C 38 parable.

And there is a channel is devoted to missionary stories. Not all of it is worthwhile, but considering the amount of flack I had to wade through to find anything half this good, here it is (they have videos organized by country if you scroll down):

I also think seeing faithful members and converts enduring real poverty is important for our youth. (Someone is going to be upset that I qualified that with "faithful members" but the D&C 38 parable backs me up on that). On my mission there was lots of poverty, but there was no escape from real poverty without deciding to first leave drugs and serial immorality behind.

It rings differently and more resoundingly in the soul to see faithful members and converts whom Christ has removed the slums from, but who have no means to remove themselves from the slums. Sure, we can help both, but the more potent and pressing image is the ironic one.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What do have the right to require by law of those not of our faith

The answer to this question is that we have a right to require, by law, those truths which all mankind have access to by nature of having the light of Christ.

God holds nobody accountable for knowledge they do not have, but he holds even the heathen nations accountable for that knowledge they do have. And what knowledge do they have? All mankind has the light of Christ, and through that means, there are some truths that God requires accountability for from all of his children.

The most basic of these truths used to be known, in our own country, as part of common decency. I don't mean common decency in the sense of helping older people in need or lending your neighbor sugar. Those are good to do, but have absolutely no place in the law. I mean the the sort of decency which God has required of heathen nations in the scriptures, and destroyed them for violating.

Such principles include:

You cannot kill your children.
You cannot commit adultery
You cannot engage in homosexuality
You cannot engage in beastiality

All of which are listed by Jehovah in the scriptures as reasons he had destroyed the heathen nations that lived in Israel before the Israelites. In this same discussion (Leviticus 18) there is enough coverage of whose nakedness is not OK to look on that, with a little common sense about the existing list, we could fairly add:

You cannot distribute pornography

These truths both once were, and should by right still be, required by law of our own citizens.

The most controversial one is probably the adultery one. After all, even the best societies still have members committing adultery. Brigham Young complained about "some few" members doing so. But there is a difference in a society that approves of it, and one that does not, and is able to extact some nature of penalty for violating it.

To our current culture's mindset a law against adultery is downright unamerican. But your ancestors passed such laws in most states of the United States, and in some states it was even a felony.

A law against pornography sounds like a violation of basic rights to many modern ears. But just listen to Ezra Taft Benson who is primarily quoting NON member sources about 50 years ago.

Postal inspectors in York City recently raided one dealer in pornography. They confiscated seventeen tons of highly obscene printed and filmed materials.

Reports from police chiefs and sheriffs indicate the tie-up. Here are typical statements from city officials in Massachusetts, Colorado, and Pennsylvania:
"Teenager criminally assaults 16-year-old girl. Search of his room revealed 50 pornographic pictures beneath his mattress."
"Student molesting two teenage girls found to have pornographic literature in glove compartment of his car."
Let me quote from a report of a Senate subcommittee that has studied this problem. The report says in part:
"There is a peculiar resemblance to narcotics addiction in exposure of juveniles to pornography. There is the same pattern of progression. Once initiated into a knowledge of the unnatural, the impressionable young mind with the insatiable curiosity characteristic of those reaching for maturity inevitably hunts for something stronger, something with more 'jolt,' something imparting a greater thrill.
"The dealer in pornography is acutely aware of this progressive facet; his array of material to feed this growing hunger is carefully geared to the successive stages. Like the peddler of narcotics, his only interest is to insure that his customers are 'hooked.' He knows that once they are 'hooked' they will continue to pay and pay."
These are some of the direct results of the smut campaign. There are indirect results too. Our children, our wives, our friends, may be the horrified victims of criminals who are triggered by obscene materials.

We do not expect a sudden return to morality. But we cannot reasonably fight for morality in law if we don't even believe it is allowable to require morality in law at any level.

What is right to require in the law? Well, if God can destroy a nation for failing to obey a thing, then he is holding them accountable in the worst possible way for it. He feels like they violated something sacred which they should have known better than to do. Your city isn't destroyed by an act of God for something he doesn't expect of you, or something that would be unfair to require of you. Those cities that were destroyed or threatened with destruction in many cases were populated exclusively or almost exclusively by people who were not members of the true church. Yet the Lord destroyed them. Why? Because, in fact, they did know better. A just God would not have destroyed them if they didn't. They had the light of Christ. They knew, when they married their sweetheart that to have intimacy behind her back was wrong. They knew, when they were children, that they wanted their father and mother to be true to each other. They knew, their own biology bearing witness as well as the light of Christ, that bestiality and homosexuality were perversions of God's intended purpose for them. They knew at some point that children were precious gifts, and to kill their own children was horribly wrong. These things were all listed by God as reasons he destroyed cities and nations that were made up of those not of the true faith. Their own religion may well have endorsed these things. In fact, these things were actually part of their own religion in some cases, such as sacrificing their children to Molech. But even though their religion said these things was OK, God still destroyed them for these things. He knew that in reality they knew better. He clearly stated that he destroyed them, as well as the reasons he did so.

These are basic principles of conscience that God requires of all mankind. These  are principles that the law has a right to require of all citizens regardless of their faith. If God will destroy a nation for violating these principles, then a nation has the right to require these principles of its citizens by law.

Honoring the law vs Commandments

Our belief in following the law is a belief in additional things we submit to, more than a belief that our obedience to the basic commandments can be altered by government. We DO NOT break fundamental commandments at the whim of government.

The scriptures, as well as early church history, are full to the brim with examples of this.
What do you think Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the furnace for? What was Daniel thrown into the Lion's den for? What were most of the early church leaders in Utah imprisoned for? Were the laws they broke not real? Weren't three virgins sacrificed on the same alter Abraham was offered on because they refused to give up their virtue? The early apostles broke the rules laid down by local rulers not to preach the gospel. How was a yet unconverted Paul able to get members imprisoned? Because their practices, and probably their very religion, didn't conform to local laws set by the Jewish leaders.

We also don't back down from fundamentals like prayer and scripture study, and certainly not the fundamental commandments, at the whim of governmental constraints, and we most certainly don't commit serious sins, such as participating in abortions, just because there is a law that insists on it.

Sure, we believe in honoring, upholding, and sustaining the law. We also believe in a lot of other commandments. We often find ourselves choosing between good, better, and best. Good principles conflict all the time for us just as they did for Adam and Eve at the fall. But when it comes between a good principle, like honoring the law, and doing something horrific, like participating in abortions, we, like the three virgins, have no question where we stand. Recently in the US there has been very insincere use of governmental power and lawsuits intended to limit and eventually quash religious freedom. In the decision of what principles to abide by we must not decide that "honor the law" means "willingly lay down your religious freedoms". Instead, we must stand for our religious freedoms with the same bravery shown by those who won them for us.

Look upon your little ones

A culture that doesn't value children more than themselves quickly turns to oppressing them. As children become an inconvenience rather than one of God's most highly prized gifts we thoughtlessly mistreat them.
What adult would tolerate a work setting where being 2 minutes late on 4 different days (months apart) would be counted against them as missing an entire day. But we thoughtlessly instigate that in our schools.
Last time we did a count we found that the amount of homework our elementary school children were given meant that their school day plus their homework was longer than a standard work day. It is quite common for school plus homework to add up to 10-12 hours a day for our teenage children.
Absolutely no value is placed on family time. We are so fascinated with raising young professionals that we can't remember that success will depend more on the stability, direction, and love they can only gain from family rather than spending their childhood doing overtime every week.
But everyone wants public school to be a free state sponsored day care, so we look the other way and talk about test scores and studies instead of looking into our children's eyes and seeing their desperate need for a childhood (can you remember childhood) and the precious years of nurturing with their family.
Those years are being tossed out the window.
And our greater focus on school instead of family is destructive even to schooling. The world's solutions to the worlds problems really are like crying flood in time of fire.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The rich, the poor, and consecration of earthly goods

This isn't close to done yet, but I am temporarily publishing its current form which is mostly just everything Christ said during his mortality about riches and the poor. I think we have learned to water down his statements one way or another, as a matter of tradition. But here is what he stated.

The parable of the Sower
Matthew 13:22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

Mark 4:18 And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,
 19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.

Luke 8:14 And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.

The Rich Young Man - Easier for camel to go through the eye of a needle
The JST changes are in verse 26:
JST Matthew 19:16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
 24 And again I say unto you, 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.
 25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
26 But Jesus beheld their thoughts, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but if they will forsake all things for my sake, with God whatsoever things I speak are possible.

The JST here is on verse 27
JST Mark 10:17 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.

The JST is verse 27 of Luke 18
JST Luke 18:18 And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
 19 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.
 20 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.
 21 And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.
 22 Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.
 23 And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
 24 And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
 26 And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved?
 27 And he said unto them, It is impossible for them who trust in riches, to enter into the kingdom of God; but he who forsaketh the things which are of this world, it is possible with God, that he should enter in.
 28 Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee.
 29 And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake,
 30 Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.

When Christ says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle we rush to correct him. This has nothing to do with difficult to navigate passages in Jerusalem. It is about a camel and the eye of a needle. It is no different in meaning than 2 Nephi 9:42. And why should it be?

2 Nephi 9:42 And whoso knocketh, to him will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches—yea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them.

Joseph of Arimathea
Matthew 27: 57 When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathæa, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple:
 58 He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered.
 59 And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,
 60 And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.

While I think this man was rich, I think taking him as demonstrating that the other scriptures are not true is not correct any more than assuming that since some of the members of the early church in this dispensation were rich then the scriptures on consecration aren't true. Their riches were a huge stumbling block and oh what they lost because they would not really live consecration. Think of Joseph Smith's casual expectation that the rich would give up their monies to free the church from its debts, which expectations I don't think ever came to fruition, e.g.:

"There are many causes of embarrassment, of a pecuniary nature now pressing upon the heads of the Church. They began poor; were needy, destitute, and were truly afflicted by their enemies; yet the Lord commanded them to go forth and preach the Gospel, to sacrifice their time, their talents, their good name, and jeopardize their lives; and in addition to this, they were to build a house for the Lord, and prepare for the gathering of the Saints. Thus it is easy to see this must [have] involved them [in financial difficulties]. They had no temporal means in the beginning commensurate with such an undertaking; but this work must be done; this place [Kirtland] had to be built up. Large contracts have been entered into for lands on all sides, where our enemies have signed away their rights. We are indebted to them, but our brethren from abroad have only to come with their money, take these contracts, relieve their brethren from the pecuniary embarrassments under which they now labor, and procure for themselves a peaceable place of rest among us. This place must and will be built up, and every brother that will take hold and help secure and discharge those contracts that have been made, shall be rich." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith)

Widow woman gives her two mites
Mark 12: 41 And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.
 42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
 43 And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:
 44 For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

Luke 21: 1 And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.
 2 And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.
 3 And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all:
 4 For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.

Mary the Mother of Christ:
Luke 1:53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

Expansion on the beattitudes
Luke 6: 24 But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.
 25 Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.
 26 Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.

The rich man and Lazarus
Luke 16: 19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
 20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
 21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
 22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
 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.
 26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
 27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
 28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
 29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
 30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
 31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

Zaccheas who gives half to the poor
Luke 19:1 And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.
 2 And, behold, there was a man named Zacchæus, 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 sycomore 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, Zacchæus, 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 Zacchæus 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.
 10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Luke 12: 16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
 17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
 18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
 20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
 21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

Luke 14: 12 Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee.
 13 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:
 14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

Luke 16: 10 He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
 11 If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
 12 And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?
 13 No servant 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.
 14 And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.

Other scriptures to fill in.
2 Nephi 9:28-30, 42-43 Rich and the Learned
2 Nephi 28:14-15
Jacob 2:13-19
Mosiah 2:12
Mosiah 4:19,23
Mosiah 12:29

Mosiah 3 natural man is an enemy to God
Alma 1:29-30
Alma 4:6,8
Alma 5:53-54
Alma 7:6
Alma 9:22-23
Alma 39:14
Alma 45:24
Alma 50:18
Alma 62:48-49
Helaman 3:36
Helaman 4:12
Helaman 6:9-17
Helaman 7:21,26
Helaman 13:20-23,30-33
3 Nephi 6:10-15
4 Nephi 1:3,23-24,43
Ether 9:16-20
D&C 6:7
D&C 11:7
D&C 38 16-18,39 and additionally the parable
D&C 42:39
D&C 43:25,64
D&C 56:15-16
D&C 58:10,47,
D&C 67:2
D&C 68:31
D&C 78:18
D&C 84:112
D&C 90:22
D&C 104:16
D&C 133:30

Wealth is a nothing more than a test to see whether we will give to the poor. The Lord gives some wealth and some poverty because one is the answer to the other.  

There is a wonderful parable about the rich and the poor in doctrine and covenants 38.

D&C 38:26 For what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter of them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there—and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just?
 27 Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is even as I am. I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.

Certainly as the Lord said “the poor always ye have with you”. 

D&C 78:5 That you may be equal in the bonds of heavenly things, yea, and earthly things also, for the obtaining of heavenly things.
 6 For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things;
 7 For if you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you.

which sounds like it means equal with each other, but another verse elsewhere he notes that he wants to make us equal with Him

D&C 76:94 They who dwell in his presence are the church of the Firstborn; and they see as they are seen, and know as they are known, having received of his fulness and of his grace;
 95 And he makes them equal in power, and in might, and in dominion.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Pondering Brigham Young's words on the atonement

Brigham Young taught that if one has made temple covenants, and then commits adultery, that the atonement of Christ did not cover that and they must atone themselves through whatever punishments the Lord sees fit to inflict in mortality as well as through the suffering of their own conscience.
Now Brigham Young wasn't one to just make things up. But this is so different than our own notion of how the atonement works that I am trying to figure out how it fits in. For one thing (1) what we get in most Sunday School lessons is that it would be impossible for one to atone oneself for committing any sin, much less for something as serious as adultery, and (2) the atonement definitely covered someone who has made temple covenants and committed adultery.
Now I always find it best to side with the prophets and scriptures and I am not aware of a scripture that directly contradicts Brigham Young's disagreement with us on (2), in fact, we do have scriptures about "impossible to be refreshed...", so I am inclined to simply take Brigham Young's word that we are generally wrong on (2).
So then there is the matter of (1). Elder Packer gave a talk on the atonement in which, at one point, at least suggests that repairing all wrong we have done in some matter actually "atones" for that matter, and that Christ's atonement is for the many times that doing so is impossible. That would certainly include all matters involving chastity. Not that I am trying to pit the two against each other, I think their statements have more in common that they appear to diverge.
Just trying to muse this out. The atonement is the object I have studied more than any other. Not that that means anything, there is much I don't know about it. But running into a clear teaching by a prophet, particularly one who knew as much as Brigham Young did leads me to ponder and consider how his words fit into the whole picture.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The father should be the head of the home

Not surprisingly, some of the most profound declarations about the family are made just when they are most needed, right as Adam and Even fall from the presence of God and are about to start the first family in a mortal, fallen, world.

In Moses 4 we read

Moses 4:22 Unto the woman, I, the Lord God, said: I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

 23 And unto Adam, I, the Lord God, said: Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the fruit of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying—Thou shalt not eat of it, cursed shall be the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.

 24 Thorns also, and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field.

 25 By the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, until thou shalt return unto the ground—for thou shalt surely die—for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou wast, and unto dust shalt thou return.

This is the father speaking directly.

It has sadly become common to assume that teachings about husbands and wives and family in the past are largely the result of prejudice. This is not true in the least, and that should be apparent to us without need of further evidence. Nevertheless, as evidence of the words of the brethren, I would put forth these words from the mouth of God the Father spoken to those who had no societal prejudices, no societal biases, no existing social structure and social norms other than whatever they had obtained from God himself. This is the Lord of hosts speaking directly on the matter. He gives clear direction that the husband is to be the head of the home.

Now, that is horribly unpopular to say these days. Prophets of this day and age have asked the members to put the father back at the head of the home, and that was in a day when fathers were much less of a figurehead in their own homes than they are now. But the mere fact that some scripture is unpopular is no reason to put it aside. As the world reshapes the family into its own image, it offers many ideas that sound appealing to us for one reason or the other. But all that the world's model of home and family has been doing over the last sixty years is to slowly, but inevitably, destroy the home and and destroy the family. All that the world has to offer the family are alternatives that undermine the family one way or another.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Authority by association

I was just thinking of those in the church I have known who were good, often exceptional members, but who seemed to believe in authority by association rather than by authority by, well..., authority. These members feel most comfortable rubbing elbows with those who have, in turn, rubbed elbows with top church authorities. They tend to value and seek out friendships with those who have high callings. They are, in a sad sense, the groupies of the gospel.

Now I am not talking about the genuine love that members have for our prophet and apostles. I am talking about those who like you better if you have a calling in front of your name that sounds important, or if you work for the church in a capacity where you occasionally talk to church authorities, of if you know some one of the top authorities in the church.

It saddens me to think of those I have known who choose this route. I mean, sure, in the world of academic mathematics if you won a fields metal I am not surprised that everybody wants to be your friend. And in the world of those who compete for wealth I am not surprised if many would immediately want to be friends with someone they discovered was inordinately rich. This is no surprise among the rich and the learned.

But really, in the gospel there is no place for this sort of artifice. If you are friends with the Bishop, that is great. If you honor the Bishop, that is great. If you want to praise the Bishop, that is great, he gets all sorts of undeserved criticism.

But there is a  marked difference between supporting your leaders, and seeking to fulfill your personal vision of success by rubbing elbows with whoever has the biggest calling. The Holy Ghost will support the one, but Christ himself condemns the other.

Matthew 23: 5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,
 6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
 7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
 12 ... whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

As saints, we certainly aren't rebelling against Christ like those people were, but couldn't we still follow Christ's counsel nonetheless?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Haughty with stretched forth necks

I hadn't notice this before.
2 Nephi 13:16 Moreover, the Lord saith: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched-forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet—
It says "Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks, and wonton eyes, walking and mincing as they go,..."
While much of the wording here points to promiscuity and intentionally drawing attention to one's body, both "haughty" and "stretched forth necks" are references to pride.
That is interesting because I have long thought the verses about the women in the church in the last days in 2 Nephi 13 will prove to have their roots in feminism. And feminism is about nothing if it isn't about pride.

False Christs, Signs and Miracles

There is a curious passage in Joseph Smith Matthew:

Joseph Smith Matthew  1:21 Behold, these things I have spoken unto you concerning the Jews; and again, after the tribulation of those days which shall come upon Jerusalem, if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, believe him not;
 22 For in those days there shall also arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant.
 23 Behold, I speak these things unto you for the elect’s sake; and you also shall hear of wars, and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled, for all I have told you must come to pass; but the end is not yet.

What is intriguing about this passage is that during his ministry, Christ said that the Jews should have recognized him as the Messiah for the miracles he did, if for nothing else. He said that ancient cities that were destroyed would have remained if the miracles he did had been done in those cities.

There is also the testimony of the blind man Christ healed that stated that God would not hear a man that was not righteous. He said he knew Christ came from God because of the miracle that he did, and his testimony was correct. His testimony of Christ is beautiful, and is based on the miracle that was done.

Also in 3rd Nephi, which Ezra Taft Benson explained gives us a notion of the second coming, we don't see adversaries of the truth offering competing miracles. Instead the people become hardened so they are no longer as surprised by a sign or a wonder. In general, there are remarkably few stories in the scriptures of any sort of false miracle. Even Pharaohs magicians, who initially replicate some of Moses' miracles, eventually say that what he is doing is the hand of God. Note that in calling it the hand of God, they are tacitly confessing that what they did was likely no more than magician's trickery. They didn't say Moses' God was more powerful than their God. They said that Moses's miracles were the hand of God.

After all Bruce R McConkie wrote: "I do not believe the devil has had a new idea for a hundred years", and there is a distinct lack of signs and wonders performed by the adversary in the past. There are a few that Joseph Smith spoke of in his day, but they are not much to look at.

So what are these great signs and wonders that allow the adversary to fool, if it were possible, even the very elect?

I make no claim to be giving a definitive answer to this. I am just musing it out. But I do see both signs and wonders around me that are leading even those among the very elect to be deceived.

I don't know whether there will be more to this scripture, but for a prolonged time in these days science has been dishing up signs and wonders for people, many of which we very much enjoy and appreciate. Science has also had more and more to say about moral issues and matters of right and wrong.

Let's take an example. Say 180 years ago the following had happened:

Brigham Young had said: “Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and the unnatural. Not so. Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember, He is our Father. “ (Taught by Elder Packer not long ago)

But your neighbor and the local paper both said: There is a recent study that says people are born predetermined to be homosexual.

What would members have done in those days? Why they would laughed at the ridiculous claim and believed the prophet.

But what about now? Science provides our microwaves, our computers, our cars, our air conditioning, our mp3 players, our large screen televisions. We are constantly eating signs and wonders out of their hands. And because of that, we have changed how we react to their claims about things that have nothing to do with cell phones and microwave ovens. Now the brethren can teach doctrine about morality or homosexuality and a study can state the opposite and many will believe the study without pause. We quote their studies when speaking in church and teaching classes. It has become popular, even in many gospel articles, not to consider an article well written and convincing if it doesn't cite a number of scientific studies. We have, effectively, turned to them for revelation.

Compare that to the way Christ taught. When our writings need something bigger and better than the plain sort of gospel teaching Christ offered, I think we need to seriously reconsider.

Science gives us many nice things. It gives us signs, miracles and wonders that convince us of trustworthiness. Then when someone says there was a study that contradicts the gospel, it seems that in these days such studies deceive, if possible, the very elect.

But doesn't the scripture say there will be many false Christ's in these days? Indeed it does. And indeed there are. We like to say we believe in the same Christ as everybody else, but from Christ's perspective, that doesn't seem to be true. He calls the other renditions of himself false Christs. The most notable of these today is the general notion of being "christlike" which is often no more than the word "inclusive" with a religious connotation thrown in. People are increasingly placing these false Christ's in direct opposition to the real one, claiming that one thing or another done by the brethren wasn't "christlike". If a notion of Christ that is being used to oppose his church is not a false Christ, I don't know what is.

Now the many false Christ's being offered to us these days aren't tied to the "signs and wonders" being offered to us. Most are clearly heading that way though so we will have to see what the future brings. Even now many won't come out and say that a study or science is wrong and the bible is right when the two are at odds with each other.

After all each church really offers a different Christ. And not one of them offers the true Christ who will provide you with actual redemption except the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint.s Thus we read in D&C 76 of those who were of Paul and of Cephos,.. as each of these different churches puts forth another false Christ for people to follow and turn to instead of being converted to the real one.

Now there is clearly more to all of this. But I was pondering the passage in Matthew 24, and wanted to put out some tentative thoughts about it.

God is more merciful, and more terrible

Joseph Smith taught:

Our heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive; and, at the same time, is more terrible to the workers of iniquity, more awful in the executions of His punishments, and more ready to detect every false way, than we are apt to suppose Him to be. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith page 257)

Since Christ and his father are one, the statement could just as well be about Christ. Christ always did exactly his Father's will. If we had seen Christ, we would have seen the Father.

I think Joseph Smith hit the nail on the head in expressing what it is about Christ that is most completely missing from our mental picture of who Christ is. I have observed many times that it is bizarre how our notion of what is Christian behavior is so completely uncoupled from what Christ actually said and did. To demonstrate how far the two have diverged here are 12 unchristian things to say or do. In every case, of course, they are something that Christ has said or done.

Unchristian things to say or do
1. It would be unchristian to refer to those weak in the faith, or those who don't believe in the true Christian faith, as dogs or pigs.

2. It would be unchristian to tell a man he is an offense to you because he values the things of men rather than the things of God.

3. It would be unchristian to make a whip and use it to forcibly drive people out of the temple.

4. It would be unchristian to call some of God's children vipers.

5. It would be unchristian to state that the people you are talking to are of the sort that are going to hell.

6. It would be unchristian to refuse to respond to a woman speaking to you asking for help  - particularly if after persistent entreaties you stated that you were doing so because of her ancestry (e.g. what we call ethnicity).

7. It would be unchristian to embarrass someone who is trying to embarrass you.

8. It would be unchristian to tell people if they don't repent they will be destroyed (3 Nephi 9-10).

9. It would be unchristian to rebuke someone who just did something miraculous for their lack of faith. (Peter walks on water, but is reproved for fearing and sinking)

10. It would be unchristian to foreordain some because of their exceeding faith and good works based on personal righteousness, as being christian means being inclusive. (Alma 13)

11. It would be unchristian to keep any one out of Christ's home on earth, because Christ loves everybody. It would certainly be unchristian to keep other christians out, or any members of Christ's own church.

12. It would be unchristian to offer people the reward of heaven for repentance and obedience, but the sufferings of a lake of fire and brimstone for rebellion and disobedience, even if one includes the offer of mercy on condition of repentance.

This last one is key I think - it expresses an important aspect of who Christ is. It reconciles the Christ of the old testament and of the new testament. He is the kind of being who offers a heaven beyond the imaginings of man's heart to those who will obey and follow him, and he offers a hell beyond the comprehension of man's mind to the wicked and rebellious. He is merciful and invites the wicked to repent and be healed, but if they will not repent during the day of probation he says that he will put them in hell until their repentance is complete and they have changed so that they will willingly bow the knee, and acknowledge and follow him as their Christ.

Which honestly isn't really that different than what he offers the living in 3 Nephi 9-10, or to the Book of Mormon people in general: if you keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land, but if not you will be cut off from my presence. It isn't different than what he offered the Israelites in mortality. In Leviticus chapter 26 Christ enumerated what would happen to the Israelites if they kept the commandments, and what would instead happen if they rebeled against him. One is better than they could have hoped for, the other is worse than they could have ever guessed.

Christ healed a man on the Sabbath, but he also commanded the Israelites to stone a man for picking up sticks on the Sabbath. We cannot reconcile the different actions of Christ if we don't realize what is expressed in Joseph Smith's statement that I opened with. There is a huge distinction in how Christ acts in the Old and New Testament and that distinction has to do with whom he is dealing with because he is more tender to the righteous than we suppose, and more terrible to the wicked than we suppose. A rebellious Israel in the Old Testament that was forever lukewarm instead of hot or cold was dealt with much more strictly than the honest seekers of truth and the truly penitent people that Christ's dealt with so personally and tenderly in the new testament. But it really is Christ both times. Christ spared the woman committing adultery in a day when no one could be killed without Rome's permission (and it should be added, in a day with lots of adultery that nobody else was being punished for). But what did he spare her from? He spared her from being executed by the law he personally had given in the Old Testament.

Our cultural picture of being Christlike doesn't fit particularly well with the sort of things Christ said and did. Yes he was merciful to the penitent and cared for the poor. No, he was not merciful to the wicked and rebellious except on condition of repentance and then he was very tender and merciful.

Yes he grants sunlight to the righteous and the wicked. No, he doesn't necessarily grant them both rain (see the JST to Matt 5, as well as any number of scriptural incidents when rain is withheld).

Yes he commands his followers to forgive all men. But he says that he, the Lord, will forgive whom he will forgive.

Some of the things that are missing from our picture of Christ are that (1) he chastens and reproves those he loves, (2) he really does require obedience, (3) he is genuinely angry with the wicked.

There is nothing fake about his anger with the wicked. Fortunately for mankind, he is very merciful to those who repent. Any who will repent, and come unto him, he will receive. He is merciful to the penitent. Again, recall Joseph Smith's statement which gives a much truer portrait of who Christ was and is than the modern phrase "christian behavior" even comes close to:

Our heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive; and, at the same time, is more terrible to the workers of iniquity, more awful in the executions of His punishments, and more ready to detect every false way, than we are apt to suppose Him to be. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith page 257)

Last of all, in modern days there is this idea that if one repented of one's sins there can be no penalty or punishment the Lord will inflict because that would contradict the idea of forgiveness. I don't think that is true at all. One can turn, for example, to President Kimball's teachings to see that this is a new idea, and not a fundamental truth of the gospel. He portrays moral transgression as having a hard and thorny road, that may well continue a great time past the point when one is allowed all the benefits of church membership again. This modern idea that forgiveness implies there is never an accompanying punishment certainly doesn't fit the scriptures. Limhi's people suffered terribly for their rebellion before being freed by the Lord's hand, and they knew it was the hand of the Lord that brought their suffering, and that it was the hand of the Lord that freed them. When the cup of suffering was full, the Lord miraculously delivered them. Adam's transgression was forgiven (Moses 6) but that didn't mean the Lord immediately freed Adam from the effects of the fall.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The rights and privileges of the priesthood

We often quote D&C 121

D&C 121:34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
 35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
 36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.

But what are the powers of heaven in question? What are the rights of the priesthood in question? They are found in D&C 107:18-19
D&C 107:18 The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church—
 19 To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.
 20 The power and authority of the lesser, or Aaronic Priesthood, is to hold the keys of the ministering of angels, and to administer in outward ordinances, the letter of the gospel, the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, agreeable to the covenants and commandments.

The "privileges" of the priesthood in D&C 107:19 are the same as the "rights of the priesthood" in D&C 121:36. A privilege is something you have a right to do. If you gain a right to something, that is a privilege you have. The rights of the priesthood listed in D&C 107:18-20 above are quite really clearly inseparably connected with the powers of heaven.

We live in a day when the belief that the rights of the priesthood can be controlled other than upon the principles of righteousness seems to be gaining more and more support. We have members quoting Rough Stone Rolling to convince us that God could use Joseph Smith as a prophet, but that didn't mean Joseph Smith wasn't a horrible person. In truth, Joseph Smith was a prophet, and the powers of heaven can only be controlled or handled upon the principles of righteousness, so as he was a prophet, he was also peculiarly righteous. We have people who want the church to redefine what constitutes sin, or to weaken their stance on one moral issue or another. But they cannot, because the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled, only upon the principles of righteousness.