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, October 19, 2015

The great message of our day is that we are worthy.

The great message of our day is that we are worthy.

And the reason it is the great message is primarily because we aren't.

It's not that we aren't worthy of anything at all. It's not that we aren't genuinely given the gift of the Holy Ghost.

But the words of Shakespeare are relevant to our age "the lady doth protest too much, methinks".

We pass around pictures on the internet with words that are high on praise and light on requirements. I saw one just today, it was simply the verse Isaiah 26:3, which reads.

Isaiah 26: 3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

The message that conveys is essentially that God trusts us, and that his mind is fixed on us, and that we keep in him in perfect peace. We read that and feel self satisfaction. In reality, the verse appears to be referring to the millennium, not to the turbulent times we now live in. 

My wife saw one a week or so ago, which said simply "God shall be with you forever and ever." It was put out by some church media group as I recall.

No conditions were attached, just "God shall be with you forever and ever." So apparently we are doing really well: God will be with us, forever and ever. Period. 

But the phrase is from D&C 122:9, which is the Lord speaking directly to Joseph Smith in the depth of his trials of Liberty Jail. It is in that sanctifying context that the scripture is given. And indeed, it is true that the Lord will be with Joseph Smith forever and ever. But until we have proven as faithful as Joseph was, perhaps we shouldn't be readdressing God's promises to Joseph Smith in Joseph's great distress as God's promises to everyone who has the internet.

The message of our day is that we are worthy. 

Which is hardly the message of the scriptures. The scriptures teach that we can become worthy. But that is a very different thing. The scriptures also give us tests for ourselves to see how we are doing. 

Joseph Smith observed:

"Because faith is wanting, the fruits are. No man since the world was had faith without having something along with it."

So there is an interesting claim right away: "No man since the world was had faith without having something along with it." But what does he mean? We continue his quotation.

"The ancients quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, women received their dead, etc. By faith the worlds were made."

OK, so Joseph Smith has said that no one has ever had faith without having something with it. .Then he gives practical examples of that: people quenched fire, escaped the sword, received their dead, and by the means of faith the worlds were made. Now let's hear where the prophet is going with this:

"A man who has none of the gifts has no faith; and he deceives himself, if he supposes he has."

Ahhh. That is the point. The point is that we have no faith if we have none of the gifts. It is no different than the teaching that "these signs shall follow them that believe".

Rather than telling us we are worthy, this is much more useful. It teaches us how can we tell when we have faith and when we don't as God measures the matter. 

We read of Christ telling Peter to become converted. God tells us the same thing. The scriptural message is a long, long distance from the modern message that we are simply worthy. 

Instead, the scriptures tell us that we have a great distance to go, and things to watch for as we are moving along.

It says things like:

Mormon 9:24 And these signs shall follow them that believe—in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover;

Instead of congratulating us for our faith, the scriptures tells us how to tell whether our faith has grown to be as big as a tiny mustard seed:

Luke 17:6 And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.

It is not surprising this is the message of the scriptures. Was it not the same message the Savior offered to his own disciples? Did we expect that if we stood there with them he would have taught us something different?

No, the message of the scriptures is that the rights of the priesthood, and the rights of faith, and rights of belief are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven.

It is not only that they cannot be controlled nor handled only on the principles of righteousness. It is that we can tell how well we have grown into the principles of righteousness by whether we find ourselves connected with the powers of heaven.

We can tell whether we believe (as God measures things) by whether the signs God tells us follow those that believe also follow us. In other words, we can tell whether we are yet living the principles of righteousness by whether we find that our belief is strong enough that it is connecting us with the powers of heaven.

We can tell whether we have faith like a mustard seed (as God measures things, which is the only measure that matters), by whether we can say to a sycamine tree "be thou plucked up by the root and be thou planted in the sea" and it obeys us. In other words, we can tell whether we have faith as a mustard seed by whether our faith is connecting us with the powers of heaven.

The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven. And what are those rights? 

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.

Wow. These are rights that are connected with the powers of heaven indeed. Truly, the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven.

The message of our day is that we are worthy.

But the scriptures challenge that message. They tell us that if we are worthy, we will find ourselves connected with the powers of heaven.

I find I personally have a great distance to go. That is what it means that I live far beneath my privileges. That is no surprise. Many of us do. Most of us do. We find ourselves in great need of repentance. But let us not redefine what it is to believe, what it is to have faith, what it is to enjoy the rights of the priesthood, by setting the standard to be different than what God has declared it to be. He didn't just state the standard, he told us how to tell when we are reaching it. 

And that standard isn't one that testifies of our current worthiness, but of our need to become so.


No comments:

Post a Comment