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, January 29, 2016

God forces a choice

Christ's sermon on the mount illustrates a general truth about the living God. Multiple times he cites the words of previous prophets and then adds "but I say unto you" and offers a different commandment than what is found in the law of Moses.

Christ is not just offering a better way of living. He is forcing his followers to choose between him and between what they have inherited, even though what they inherited actually came from him in a former time. He is forcing them to chose between living prophets and dead prophets. He is forcing them to choose between what they have been taught is right, and what he is teaching them then.

And he almost always does that. He forces us to choose whether or not we are committed to him.

While he was alive Christ's disciples didn't fast. Fasting is a commandment in the law of Moses. But Christ told his followers not to fast, saying they should not be mourning while he, the Messiah, was with them. He made them choose between what they found in the scriptures and following him. He made them choose whether or not they believed he was a prophet that could give new practices in place of what older prophets had revealed for their day. 

The Sabbath is a big deal in the law of Moses. In Moses' day one man was put to death for picking up sticks on the Sabbath. But after the resurrection Christ has his followers worship on the 1st day of the week instead of on the day the scriptures give as the Sabbath. In effect, he had them all violating the Sabbath according to what Moses had revealed, and according to what they had rightly grown up with in their youth as a commandment. But in doing so they are, in truth, following God, rather than violating his commandments. By violating his former commandment, in favor of his new one, they prove they are committed to him. And he intentionally put them in a circumstance where they must choose.

He tests whether we are serious. He puts us in the position of having to Choose.

What is really going on is not just a choice between dead prophets and living prophets, but a choice between obedience to him, the living God, as he commands us now, and anything else. Even between obedience to him, and adherence to principles we grew up with.

What he wants to know, ultimately, is whether we will obey him. Period. 

Thus Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son Isaac. Murder is against the commandments. Murder of one's own child is HUGELY against the commandments. In fact, shedding innocent blood isn't even covered by the atonement as Joseph Smith explained.

Nevertheless, Abraham obeyed, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, an angel intervening when Abraham's obedience was certain.

In these latter days God forced the early saints to choose between obedience to him, the living God, and between what they already had. For example, the visions of the degrees of glory forced them to choose, for Christ himself speaks only of heaven and hell in the new testament. Another challenging revelation to the saints would have been the revelation that hell has an end, which changes the meaning of many existing scriptures.

The mammoth one would have been polygamy. The Lord put them in the position of having to choose "will we do this?",  "are we that committed to this?", "do we believe in this so much that we will risk our eternal life pursuing it?" That last question is kind of the point. The Lord wants to know whether we believe him so much that we will stake our eternal life on it. If the church had been false, polygamy would have been an abomination destroying the souls of those who were involved in it and dooming them to damnation unless they repented. But the church is true, and polygamy was endorsed by God himself and living it was inspired of the Holy Ghost in that day.

We have not finished these tests.

We already know that animal sacrifice will one day be restored. Joseph Smith laid that out plainly in at least two different places in teachings of the prophet Joseph Smith. 

Joseph Smith said:

"It is a very prevalent opinion that the sacrifices which were offered were entirely consumed. This was not the case; if you read Leviticus 2:2-3, you will observe that the priests took a part as a memorial and offered it up before the Lord, while the remainder was kept for the maintenance of the priests; so that the offerings and sacrifices are not all consumed upon the altar--but the blood is sprinkled, and the fat and certain other portions are consumed.

These sacrifices, as well as every ordinance belonging to the Priesthood, will, when the Temple of the Lord shall be built, and the sons of Levi be purified, be fully restored and attended to in all their powers, ramifications, and blessings. This ever did and ever will exist when the powers of the Melchizedek Priesthood are sufficiently manifest; else how can the restitution of all things spoken of by the Holy Prophets be brought to pass? It is not to be understood that the law of Moses will be established again with all its rites and variety of ceremonies; this has never been spoken of by the prophets; but those things which existed prior to Moses' day, namely, sacrifice, will be continued."
 (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith page 172)

The first paragraph here leaves us in no doubt that we are talking about actual animal sacrifice. He even discusses some of the details of how it is to be done.

In fact, Joseph Smith said here that animal sacrifice is always present when the powers of the Melchizedek priesthood are sufficiently manifest. Thus when it is restored, it will not just be a one time event. It is part of the restoration of all things that is necessary to have all the blessings in place necessary to establish Zion once again upon the earth.

We don't even live the law of consecration yet, so we hardly need to worry about sacrifice being restored anytime soon. 

But one day we, or our posterity, will start living up to our privileges, and somewhere along that path sacrifice will be restored. And when it is we will find ourselves having to choose. And frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if there will be more times he will force us to choose between him and our traditions along the way besides that one. Joseph Smith also taught:

I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen. (Jan. 20, 1844.) DHC 6:183-185.

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