31 October 2008

Alma and Amulek as Types of Christ, Part 3

Alma and Amulek, like the Savior, showed poise amid provocation, "And the Judge smote them again upon their cheeks, and asked: What say ye for yourselves?...And it came to pass that Alma and Amulek answered him nothing" (Alma 14:15,17). Before Herod, the Savior likewise said nothing, "He [Herod] questioned with him in many words; but [Jesus] answered him nothing" (Luke 23:9). After Alma and Amulek's refusal to speak, the chief judge "smote them again, and delivered them to the officers to be cast into prison" (Alma 14:17). Jesus faced a similar experience, "And when [Pilate] had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified" (Matt. 27:26). The Savior was delivered unto crucifixion and the prison of death, which prison He would overcome and destroy. "And when [Alma and Amulek] had been cast into prison three days" (Alma 14:18) their incarceration was interrupted by more questioning from lawyers, judges, and church leaders. Unlike Alma and Amulek, the Savior rose and was freed from His prison, from the grave, on the third day (John 19:40-42; 20:1,9; Luke 24:46). Alma and Amulek, again like the Savior (see Mark 15:3), did not respond to the questions of the disingenuous and wicked civic and religious leaders (see Alma 14:18-19).

Many people "came forth also, and smote them" (Alma 14:20), just as the Savior was repeatedly smitten. Again, Alma and Amulek were mocked by those asking them why they did not save themselves. Alma and Amulek were further abused, "And many such things did they say unto [Alma and Amulek], gnashing their teeth upon them, and spitting upon them, and saying: How shall we look when we are damned?" (Alma 14:21). The Savior experienced all these same abuses. "The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth [meaning that they insulted the Savior and gnashed their teeth at Him]" (Matt 27:44). The High Priest and others "spit in [Jesus'] face, and buffeted him; and other smote him with the palms of their hands, Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?" (Matt. 26:67-68).

Alma and Amulek spent more days in prison suffering mocking and derision. Their captors "did withhold food from them that they might hunger, and water that they might thirst; and they also did take from them their clothes that they were naked" (Alma 14:22). The Savior suffered similar thirst, "After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth" (John 19:28-29; see also Mark 15:36). [This also leads to an interesting aside about prophecies. The Savior knew the scriptures about Himself: "They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink" (Psalm 69:21) and He acted upon this knowledge to fulfill this prophecy. Prophecies often require effort to be fulfilled - they are not usually independent of human action. The other thing we learn from the scripture in Psalm 69 is that the Savior also was hungry and probably was offered something very unpleasant to eat, even though it is not mentioned in the Gospels. This further strengthens the relationship between Alma and Amulek's sufferings and the Savior's because Alma and Amulek were denied food and drink]. Also like Alma and Amulek, the Savior was stripped of His clothing: "Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part" (John 19:23). Alma and Amulek, once stripped of clothing, "were bound with strong cords, and confined in prison" (Alma 14:22). The Savior, once crucified, likewise was bound with the cords of death and confined in the prison of the grave.

29 October 2008

Alma and Amulek as Types of Christ, Part 2

The narrative continues: "And the people went forth testifying against them – testifying that they had reviled against the law…and [had stated] that there was but one God, and that he should send his Son among the people, but he should not save them…. Now this was done before the chief judge of the land" (Alma 14:5). The Savior faced a similar experience: "Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days… And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy" (Matthew 26:55-66).

When forced to watch the awful burning of the innocent women and children, Amulek stated (after he had asked if they could save those being burned), "Behold, perhaps they will burn us also." Alma replied, "Be it according to the will of the Lord" (Alma 14:13). The Savior made a similar statement in submitting His will to the Father's in the Garden of Gethsemane, "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42). Alma continued, "But, behold, our work is not finished" (Alma 14:13). The Lord had stated earlier in His life, "My time is not yet come [my work is not finished]" (John 7:6) but when he was crucified, His mortal work was finished (John 19:30).

Alma and Amulek were taken before the chief judge of the land, who "smote them with his hand upon their cheeks" (Alma 14:14). The Savior likewise was smitten, "And the men that held Jesus mocked him, and smote him" (Luke 22:63). "And when he [the Savior] had thus spoken, one of the officers [of the High Priest] which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand" (John 18:22). The chief judge, when seeing that Alma and Amulek did nothing to save the women and children stated, "Behold, ye see that ye had not power to save those who had been cast into the fire; neither has God saved them because they were of thy faith" (Alma 14:15). The Savior was similarly mocked, "And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God. And the soldiers also mocked him...saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself.... And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be the Christ, save thyself and us" (Luke 23: 35-37,39). What those who mocked the Savior did not understand was that through His death He was bringing salvation from death for all and salvation from hell for all who follow Him.

27 October 2008

Alma and Amulek as Types of Christ, Part 1

The scriptures are rife with people whose experiences and characteristics serve as types and foreshadows of Christ's life and sufferings. There were two missionaries who preached among a wicked people. One was a prophet and the other his recently-converted companion. Some of the clearest and most powerful teachings in the Book of Mormon are found in the teachings of this companionship. However, their most powerful sermon was not given to the crowd of lawyers and judges; it was not given to Zeezrom. Their most powerful sermon was given while they were in prison; it was given with few few words but powerful actions. Alma and Amulek were thrown in prison for speaking plainly against the wickedness of the people. The ensuing events closely parallel the final hours of the Savior's life as well as his death and resurrection.

Lies were told about Alma and Amulek. Some said they were seditious – speaking against the laws and judges. These same lies were told of the Savior's teachings: "And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King" (Luke 23:2; compare to Luke 20:25). The lawyers wanted to get rid of Alma and Amulek in secret, to "put them away privily" (Alma 14:3). The Savior also had a secret and illegal initial trial, "Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the Passover.... Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death" (John 18:28,31). Just as the religious leaders not able to put the Savior away privily in the end and had to have him condemned in a very public manner, neither were Alma and Amulek put away silently. Instead, the civic rulers took Alma and Amulek and "bound them with strong cords, and took them before the chief judge of the land" (Alma 14:4). Of the Savior, it is written: "And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes" (Mark 14:53). "AND straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate" (Mark 15:1). So both the Savior and Alma and Amulek were taken before the leaders of the land to receive their judgments.

25 October 2008

The Mountain of the Lord's House - An LDS Perspective on Temples, part 6

One of the defining moments in my life was when I was able to attend the temple and receive my own endowment. That’s a day I will never forget – it has eternal significance for me and for my family. I urge you youth to ponder about the importance of the temple and prepare yourselves to enter its doors. Strive with all your energy to keep the Spirit with you in all you do. It will provide the strength and peace needed to face and overcome the temptations of the adversary.

The small and simple actions of prayer and reading the scriptures provide great strength. "By small and simple things are great things brought to pass" (Alma 37: 6). Reading your scriptures and praying regularly will help you fight temptations and stand victorious. You are very busy now but life only becomes more hectic as you get older; if these things are not priorities in your lives now it can be hard to make them priorities later.

My family recently experienced a number of events that brought to our minds the importance of temples and of the sealing of families together for eternity. At the beginning of May 2008 my family and I attended the funeral of my grandmother Beverly. Her spirit slipped out of her mortal frame into the eternal realm and her body was laid in the ground. Her passing was not unexpected but the pain of separation for us was acute. That event was followed by ones of great joy. The day after the funeral my brother was sealed for time and all eternity in the House of the Lord. Two lives were joined as one by the priesthood of God in the holy temple. A few days later my sister had a baby who came from God, "trailing clouds of glory" (W. Wordsworth, Ode: Intimations of Immortality) to join a family who had been sealed together in the temple. Shortly later, my family had the funeral for my grandmother Maxine, who passed away at the end of May. Her death was also not unexpected but again, the pain of separation was acute. Her husband - my grandfather - then passed away only 11 days later.

Within the space of just one and a half months, my family experienced a death, a marriage, birth, a death, and another death. It's as if the Plan of Salvation was compressed into one month for my family.

At times such as these our minds often turn to eternal matters as we experience these emotions of sadness and joy. Three of these recent events were sad because they involved separation from loved ones; they were events signaling the end of mortal life. However, through the blessings of the temple, these separations are only temporary. My grandparents merely passed from one stage of their existence into another through the door of death. While there is sorrow on our part, there is also joy knowing that they are reunited with other loved ones who have gone on before. We are also strengthened by the knowledge that at some point in the future we will all be reunited as families. The other two recent family events brought joy unto us; they signaled the start of new life and lives. I'm grateful for the knowledge and blessings of eternal families - this is the greatest blessing of the temple.

23 October 2008

The Mountain of the Lord's House - An LDS Perspective on Temples, part 5

That is a call I’d like to extend to the youth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The temple is a place of beauty and blessing. You Young Women and Young Men [ages 12-18] are able to go perform baptisms for the dead. Living the gospel – keeping the commandments and remaining true to your baptismal (and priesthood, for you young men) covenants can be difficult at times. Pres. Monson, our beloved prophet, stated in the April 2008 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “[You] youth…in particular, face temptations we can scarcely comprehend. The adversary and his hosts seem to be working nonstop to cause [your] downfall. We are waging a war with sin…but we need not despair. It is a war we can and will win” (Ensign, May 2008, p. 90).

You youth are in the midst of a war for your souls. On one side are Satan and his followers; on the other are the Lord and His followers. You choose which side to fight for. There will be casualties along the way but we know which side wins in the end. Just as Helaman’s army suffered no losses, with faith and righteousness you can survive the battle and not be counted among the casualties. You might be wounded and suffer blood loss but those are wounds that can be cleansed and healed at the fountain of living waters. Satan will try his utmost to keep you from attending the temple. He will try all sorts of feints and tactics. He will try to get you to lower your guard and remove your armor but you must remain strong and ready. You have inspired parents, leaders, and friends who can help you remain strong and faithful and who can help prepare you to enter the temple and receive its blessings.

21 October 2008

The Mountain of the Lord's House - An LDS Perspective on Temples, part 4

The Savior used the pearl analogy again when he stated that we should not cast our pearls before swine - meaning that holy things are to remain sacred and pure. The same goes for our lives, if we are to be holy. Once we receive temple blessings we need to remain worthy of them and not drag them through the mud. When we become physically dirty or muddy we can wash ourselves and be clean. In a like manner, when we become spiritually dirty or muddy, when we sin and are become as lost sheep as Isaiah stated (see Isaiah 53: 6), then there is a way prepared for us to become clean again. "All we like sheep have gone astray" (Isa. 53: 6) but the Good Shepherd, who is also the Lamb of God, prepared the way for us to return to the fold; indeed, He leaves the ninety-nine to search for the one who has wandered and who seeks forgiveness. The light of repentance disperses the darkness of sin.

The Lord promises great blessings to those who return unto him. During the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple, Joseph Smith pleaded: "And when thy people transgress, any of them, they may speedily repent and return unto thee, and find favor in thy sight, and be restored to the blessings which thou hast ordained to be poured out upon those who shall reverence thee in thy house. And we ask thee, Holy Father, that thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and that thy name may be upon them, and thy glory be round about them, and thine angels have charge over them; And from this place they may bear exceedingly great and glorious tidings, in truth, unto the ends of the earth, that they may know that this is thy work, and that thou hast put forth thy hand, to fulfill that which thou hast spoken by the mouths of the prophets, concerning the last days." (D&C 109: 21-23; emphasis added).

If we have transgressed, if we have strayed, we need to repent; when we repent, the blessings of heaven shall be poured out upon us, which blessings will also help wash away our imperfections. Let me repeat some of the blessings promised unto us by the Lord as we remain faithful to temple covenants: we shall be armed with power - power to do the Lord's work and power to resist temptation; we shall have God's name upon us; the glory of the Lord will be round about us - His image will shine in our countenances and he shall be as a pillar of cloud and of fire unto us; and angels will have charge over us, providing strength and comfort. All are powerful blessings. When we receive these blessings I think it is important to remember the words of the Prophet Joseph; he prayed that the saints would go forth from the temple unto the ends of the earth bearing great and glorious tidings. Again, the call is to welcome all people to become worthy to enter the temple. We have a responsibility to share our precious pearl and call to others, "Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord."

A Response to a Website Critical of Mormonism

Edit: I removed a portion of this post in order to simply it and focus on just one topic. I'll rewrite the first part of the post (that I removed) at a later date. I also removed the comments because they no longer applied to this post; they weren't removed because of content, they just weren't relevant any more. The author(s) of them should feel free to re-comment, if they desire, when I post the first part of my article again.

Here is my review of a website I stumbled across. 

This site is full of so-called intellectual criticisms of Mormonism that often consist of random quotes taken out of context to make a narrow and often unrelated point. Sometimes quotes are cleverly juxtaposed to make it easier for someone to make a faulty intuitive leap. Many of the quotes can be true independently but they sometimes are put together in a specific way to make a point that is not true. This is a common anti-Mormon tactic. This is a common tactic in political campaigns. It is also a common general rhetorical tactic.

There are numerous posts that seemingly point out inconsistencies and shifts in church doctrine over time, as if this somehow hurts the church. The LDS Church is founded on modern-day revelation; on the belief that we have a living prophet who is the only one authorized to receive revelation for the entire church and to authoritatively interpret the scriptures and speak for the Lord. If some doctrines did not have to change over time in response to the times, why would there be a need for a living prophet?

Because the authors who contribute to this site come across as providing intellectual criticisms of the LDS Church, church doctrine, and church leaders, I'll write about the Church and intellectualism.

The LDS Church is sometimes criticized for being anti-intellectual. What is true about that is that the Church does not approve of intellectuals who place their own personal beliefs and egos above that of revealed doctrine; who think that they know better than the prophet just because they might think they are smarter than the prophet or than a particular church leader. Some of these intellectuals want to sell their messes of pottage for what they think is truth. So some criticize the Church for occasionally excommunicating these "free-thinkers" for "doing nothing" but questioning authority or telling the "truth." This brand of intellectualism consists of religious anarchists, people who believe that they should have complete immunity and impunity for their words and actions.

They criticize the Church for encouraging blind faith while at the same time disregard LDS doctrine that teaches that God values moral (free) agency so much that a war was fought in heaven over it. Church leaders always let people have their agency, even if that means the people lose their membership in the Church. Church leaders do not call for us to have blind faith, although there are instances when we need to take a step or two into the dark or to take a leap of faith, they want us to have simple faith (that's not simple-minded faith, it's pure and holy faith - the faith of a child in a parent). The LDS Church is certainly not opposed to intellectuals. Does not God have the greatest intellect of all? Do we not believe that we are His children and can become like Him?

I am not encouraging people to think less or to stop asking questions. Think hard, ask the tough questions but make sure you ask God to know the truth; you can know all truth through the power of the Holy Ghost. The gospel of Jesus Christ and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accept and encompass all truth, regardless of topic. Science and doctrine go hand in hand when science is true (and when the doctrine is true).

My personal belief and philosophy is that I may believe many theories and "truths" of science and philosophy but I'm not willing to bet my eternal salvation on those. For example, I could spend my whole life doing neuropsychology and neuroscience research and discover, in the next life, that everything I thought I knew was true was in fact false. I would not be upset because I leave myself open to that possibility, even if it is not likely. The only sure thing that I really know is my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that He lives, that He has a plan for me and all of us, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is His church restored to the earth and that the keys, authority, and ordinances necessary for salvation are held therein. Everything that I know to be true is related to that knowledge. All worldly, scientific, or other knowledge is secondary. The more I study science, the more sure I am that Truth is only revealed by God through His prophets and through the Holy Ghost.

19 October 2008

The Mountain of the Lord's House - An LDS Perspective on Temples, part 3

Being holy also requires us to be clean. The prophet Ezekiel spoke of the cleansing that comes in the temple and through temple service: "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them" (Ezekiel 36: 25-27). The Lord promised a new heart, a heart softened by the Spirit, to those who receive saving ordinances and keep His statutes. This new heart allows us to be better people: better saints, better citizens, better mothers, fathers, and friends. It is a new heart that beats warmly within our chests, filling us with love and charity for our friends, neighbors, and the entire world. The temple is a place where we learn to live as better people in this world while striving to remain spotless from the sins of the world; Elder Maxwell stated, "Temple work is not an escape from the world but a reinforcing of our need to better the world while preparing ourselves for another and far better world. Thus, being in the Lord's house can help us to be different from the world in order to make more difference in the world" (N.A.M. Quote Book, p. 339). Inner change is not enough, we need to take that change and seek to bless others.

The Savior likened the gospel and the kingdom of heaven unto a pearl of great price, which a man sold all that he had in order to purchase (see Matt. 13: 45-46). The kingdom of heaven is something for which we need to be willing to give up everything. Hopefully, none of us view the gospel as a pearl of great pride instead of a pearl of great price. A pearl of great pride is something we hide away and don't share; we may have worked hard to obtain it and we want the world to know that. A pearl of great price is something that we give our all for and then share it with others so they too can experience the beauty and blessings of that pearl. That's what Elder Maxwell said about the temple - it's not a place that removes us from the world; it's a place that moves us to improve the world. The temple is not an exclusive club that keeps out the rabble (it's not a pearl of pride), it's an education center that gives us the opportunity to, as the BYU motto states, "Enter to learn, [and] go forth to serve;" the temple is a pearl of great price - something we should be willing to give our all for; it’s not just a one-time purchase but something that requires our whole lives. The price - the responsibility - of the temple is a life of willing sacrifice and service and of obedience and repentance.

17 October 2008

The Mountain of the Lord's House - An LDS Perspective on Temples, part 2

The prophet Isaiah saw in vision latter-day temples and the church members who attend them: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, when the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths" (2 Ne. 12: 2-3).

In the last days - in our day - comes the clarion call to the temple. It is a call to learn the ways of God and to walk in the paths the Lord has marked. It is a call to one and all to visit the house of God as individuals and as families in order to receive the blessings of time and eternity. Why is the temple so important? A temple is the House of the Lord. It is the place where ordinances necessary for exaltation are performed. Temple ordinances weld generation to generation; husband to wife, mother to daughter, and sister to brother. A temple is a place of covenant - it is a house of holiness.

To be holy means to be dedicated, set-apart, or consecrated. When we are holy we consecrate all our lives and everything we have to the work of the Lord. The prophet Zechariah spoke about consecration: "In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD...Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts" (Zechariah 14: 20-21). Zechariah envisioned the day when even the horses and dishes would be consecrated for the work of the Lord. Many of us do this in our lives - we drive our children and the children of others to church activities or we drive to our visiting or home teaching appointments; we also use our dishes to take food to those who are ill or in need. Those may seem like small matters, but that is the essence of consecration - it is using our means to serve and support others and further the work of the Lord.

15 October 2008

The Mountain of the Lord's House - An LDS Perspective on Temples, part 1

From the days of Adam, temples have always been important to the followers of God. In the ancient world, temples were often at the center of city life. This also is how some modern cities are designed. A good example of this in our day is Mesa Arizona. The temple is built on Main Street and very close to Center Street – right in the middle of the city. The city radiates out from that point. Salt Lake City is designed in the same way. Wherever the saints of God lived, they built temples. Moses was commanded to build a tabernacle – a portable temple. Solomon built a temple in Jerusalem that was alternately destroyed and rebuilt over the years. Shortly after Nephi and his family reached the Promised Land, they built a temple. Following the Restoration, the prophet Joseph was commanded to build a temple. The saints built one in Kirtland, Ohio (some of my ancestors were heavily involved in the building of that temple as well as others). The saints fled Ohio following persecutions - leaving behind the precious house of the Lord. Land was dedicated in Missouri for a temple. That structure has not yet been built.

Once in Nauvoo, the saints built a temple, finishing it with a trowel in one hand and a wagon in the other as they fled the state to head to the Salt Lake Valley. The Nauvoo temple was dedicated before it was fully completed so some of the saints could receive their temple blessings before they had to cross the plains. I’m sure those blessings gave courage and strength to many who faced the grueling journey ahead. The Prophet Joseph stressed the importance of temples: "The main object [of gathering the Jews, or the people of God, in any age of the world] was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation; for there are certain ordinances and principles that, when they are taught and practiced, must be done in a place or house built for that purpose" (as cited in R. Millet, The Power of the Word, p. 218).

14 October 2008

Christian Courage: The Price of Discipleship

Elder Robert D. Hales spoke on Christian courage at this past General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a conference held semiannually from Salt Lake City, Utah and broadcast to church locations, homes, and computers worldwide.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from his talk.

When we do not retaliate—when we turn the other cheek and resist feelings of anger—we too stand with the Savior. We show forth His love, which is the only power that can subdue the adversary and answer our accusers without accusing them in return. That is not weakness. That is Christian courage.

Through the years we learn that challenges to our faith are not new, and they aren’t likely to disappear soon. But true disciples of Christ see opportunity in the midst of opposition.

Meekness is not weakness. It is a badge of Christian courage.... True disciples speak with quiet confidence, not boastful pride.

By arguments and accusations, some people bait us to leave the high ground. The high ground is where the light is. It’s where we see the first light of morning and the last light in the evening. It is the safe ground. It is true and where knowledge is. Sometimes others want us to come down off the high ground and join them in a theological scrum in the mud. These few contentious individuals are set on picking religious fights, online or in person. We are always better staying on the higher ground of mutual respect and love.

You can read the rest of his talk here.

13 October 2008

Come Buy Wine and Milk Without Money and Without Price, Part 3

Mercy is such an important principle that it is one of the main messages of the Book of Mormon. At the end of the first chapter of the first book in the Book of Mormon Nephi writes, "Behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance" (1 Ne. 1:20). Jerusalem was about to be destroyed. Lehi had had a vision and started preaching the impending destruction of Jerusalem. It was not a popular message. However, the Lord was mindful of Lehi and his family. Lehi had a special calling to leave Jerusalem and work his way to a promised land. That is the Lord's mercy; He delivered Lehi's family from destruction. Their path was not easy but the Lord was merciful. Nephi explained how to obtain mercy - simply have faith in the Lord. The Lord has merciful feelings for all people. However, He can only be as merciful as people allow Him to be: "Thus doth the Lord work with his power in all cases among the children of men, extending the arm of mercy towards them that put their trust in him" (Mosiah 29:20). He cannot fully bless us with His mercy if we do not have faith in Him and if we do not pull all our trust in Him. To receive a fullness of mercy we must repent of our sins.

We can continue to trace the Lord's mercy throughout the Book of Mormon as people are freed from bondage - physical and spiritual. Even though much of the tone of the Book of Mormon is negative - it is after all, a chronicle of a civilization that destroys itself - there is always the underlying message of hope and mercy that things will work out in the end. There is repentance and forgiveness. There is mercy to be found. There is a Balm in Gilead. The Lord will "bind up the brokenhearted [and] proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.... [He will] comfort all that mourn; [and] appoint unto them that mourn in Zion [and] give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, the he might be glorified" (Isaiah 61:1-3). In these tender verses we learn of Christ's role as healer. He pours forth mercy unto those in need and comforts those who mourn: "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Rev. 21:4). This is a promise given to those who return to live with God again.

11 October 2008

Come Buy Wine and Milk Without Money and Without Price, Part 2

In what is one of the most moving descriptions of the Lord's mercy, the prophet Micah described the Lord's feelings for the House of Israel - for all of us. Even though the people were (and are) often unfaithful wives to the Bridegroom, the Lord is merciful. Notice how justice and mercy are both served: "Therefore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me. Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness" (Micah 7:7-9). Micah later continues with a moving and loving description of the Lord: "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnent of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:18-19). The Lord executes justice but he delights in mercy and is compassionate.

The Savior's life was filled with many acts of mercy. He gave sight to the blind; He cured all manners of infirmities; He cast out devils; He took time to bless children when He was tired and hungry; He even brought the dead to life. However, His greatest act of mercy was the Atonement. "And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam. And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day" (2 Ne. 9:21-22). This single act made it possible for all to live again and for all to receive forgiveness of sins as they repent and have faith in the Lord. The way is prepared. "Come, my brethern, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price" (2 Ne. 9:50).

09 October 2008

Come Buy Wine and Milk Without Money and Without Price, Part 1

One quality that the Lord exhibits and encourages is mercy. We are commanded to be merciful: "What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:8). One eternal principle seems at odds with mercy - justice. However, justice and mercy are usually mentioned together even though many times they seem like they are mutually exclusive of each other. On the surface, it does not seem possible for someone to be both just and merciful.

In the book of Alma we find one of the most clear descriptions of the interplay between justice and mercy. We learn that justice must be served - it is an eternal law that cannot be broken: "Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.... Do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God." (Alma 42:13,25). However, we know that God is both just and merciful. Justice must be fulfilled but God provided a way for justice and mercy to be served: "And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also" (Alma 42:15). The Great Lawgiver, even the Lord Jesus Christ, offered himself as a merciful sacrifice so that justice would be fulfilled. The great Book of Mormon teacher, Jacob, younger brother to Nephi, called the Plan of Salvation the "merciful plan of the great Creator" (2 Ne. 9:6). The Plan of Salvation is really the Plan of Mercy. It is the way prepared for us to be able to return to the presence of God and be like His Son Jesus Christ. None of us can return on our own, we all fall short, but the Lord is merciful and provided a Way.

07 October 2008

Pride, Part 5

Pride not only leads to sin, it keeps us from repentance. Isaiah warned, "Wo unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope" (2 Ne. 15: 18). The wicked pull their sins along behind them in cart. Notice how Isaiah described the ropes: "cords of vanity." People do not cut the ropes - do not repent - because of their vanity, or their pride. Some people are proud of the carts they pull. Others may not repent because without their cart, they feel they might not fit in with the rest of the world. Still others pull invisible carts and are too ashamed to admit they too pull a cart, so they don't repent.

Those who are able to cut off their sins are promised great blessings: "Behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God...and their joy shall be full forever" (2 Ne. 9:18). The crosses of the world the righteous bear include mocking and scoffing, which is a common pastime of those who dwell in the great and spacious building. The righteous despise the shame of the crosses of the world, meaning that they do not heed the mocking and derision; they humbly go on their way, following the Savior's footsteps, even if they lead up a lonely Calvary. The righteous know there is no shame in following the Savior. The righteous receive the promise that they will return to dwell with God and have a fullness of joy. I've felt a portion of this joy and long for its fullness.

Pride is manifest in many ways. For some, it is not repenting because of feelings of shame. Others don't repent because they feel unworthy of forgiveness. Pride is also manifest through the desire for worldly things at the expense of the Eternal. It is manifest through our refusal to forgive others or to accept their forgiveness.

[More to come as I finish the essay].

05 October 2008

Pride, Part 4

The proud try to forge their own way and light their own paths. Isaiah stated: "Behold all ye that kindle fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks, walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks which ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand - ye shall lie down in sorrow" (2 Ne. 7:11). When people try to walk by the light of their own conceit, they will always stumble. The light of Christ is perpetual while the sparks of the proud are merely ephemeral. "Yea, the light of the wicked shall be put out, and the spark of his fire shall not shine. The light shall be dark in his tabernacle, and his candle shall be put out with him" (Job 18:5-6). The proud do not turn to the Lord for strength. Their sparks are short-lived. The prideful "[turn] out of the way of righteousness, and...trample under their feet the commandments of God, and...turn unto their own ways, and...build up unto themselves idols of their gold and their silver" (Hel. 6:31). Turning to another analogy from Isaiah, "shall the ax boast itself against him that heweth therewith? Shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it?" (2 Ne. 20:15). We axes and saws have no reason to boast. The Book of Mormon king Benjamin spoke much on that subject: "Of what have ye to boast? And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you" (Mosiah 2:24-25).

Another facet of pride causes us to be focused inwardly on ourselves. Those who are prideful do sometimes turn their thoughts outward. However, when the prideful turn outward they merely look down their noses at others, seeing only the worst in others while viewing themselves as better than those around them. Pres. Benson stated: "Pride does not look up to God and care about what is right. It looks sideways to man and argues who is right. Pride is manifest in the spirit of contention" (Ensign, May 1986, p.4-). Pride is not about having things or talents or money, it's about having more than others and making sure they know that. C.S. Lewis explained this concept: "Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.… It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone" (Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1952, pp. 109–10; as cited in Benson, Ensign, May 1989, p.4-). There is a condition called anosognosia that is occasionally occurs after brain injury or in conditions such as Alzheimer's disease. Anosognosia literally means without knowledge of disease. People with this condition are not aware of their deficits and usually deny any problems. Specific areas and connections in their brains are damaged, destroying the ability for them to have that self-insight, or self-awareness of their deficits. The proud have a similar problem. They cannot see their faults or their sins. They deny any problems and only see faults in others. However, unlike those with anosognosia, the proud do not have an excuse for their lack of self-awareness - it is a choice they make.

03 October 2008

Pride, Part 3

I turn now to another example of pride. Alma gave counsel to his three sons, which counsel comprises chapters 36 through 42 in the book of Alma. Alma starts out his discussion with his son Corianton (who is known for leaving his missionary work to chase after a harlot named Isabel) with these words: "Now this is what I have against thee; thou didst go on unto boasting in thy strength and thy wisdom" (Alma 39:2). Alma continued and talked about sexual sin but it's important to note that he started with the sin of pride - Corianton's boasting in his own strength and wisdom. At the end of his discourse to his son, Alma tells Corianton to let the justice, mercy, and long-suffering of God "bring you down to the dust in humility." (Alma 42:30). Alma starts out with pride and ends with humility. I believe Corianton's underlying problem was pride. This is similar to the cities of Sodom and Gomorra. We tend to focus on the wickedness of those cities as being sexual. However, to Ezekiel the Lord stated: "Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness [it's interesting to note how often pride and idleness are mentioned together] was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good" (Ezekiel 16: 49-50). The sin of Sodom was pride, which led the people also to not share of their abundance with the poor. The people had other sins, of course, but the Lord in this instance condemned their pride.

Pride is when we put our will before or above the will of God. It states in Genesis that the Lord created man and woman in his own image. Many of us, in our pride, try to create God in our own image. Joseph Smith said, "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" (D&C 1:16). When we are prideful we think that only we know what's best for our lives. The Psalmist wrote: "The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts" (Ps 10:4). Pride keeps our thoughts from turning to the Lord. Sometimes we also might try to rationalize our sins away saying that God understands. He might only beat us with a few stripes but then we'll be saved. In essence, we sometimes try to form God into who and what we think He should be. This occurs more often when we repeatedly pray for things and seek to change the will of God instead of trying to understand and accept His will. Heavenly Father blessed us with moral agency and allows us to exercise that agency, even when the choices we make are self-destructive: "Because of...their great wickedness, and their boastings in their own strength, they were left in their own strength; therefore they did not prosper" (Hel. 4:13). When we are too prideful to acknowledge the Lord's hand or to lean on His strength, He allows us to make our choices and rely on our own strength. We will not ultimately prosper if we do so.

01 October 2008

Pride, Part 2

The most-quoted prophet by Book of Mormon prophets is Isaiah. He wrote much about pride. When describing the wicked he stated that "they worship the work of their own hands.... And the mean man boweth not down, and the great man humbleth himself not.... And it shall come to pass that the lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down.... The proud and lofty, and...every one who is lifted up...shall be brought low" (2 Ne. 12:8-12). I don't believe it's a coincidence that one of the first complete chapters of Isaiah that Nephi includes is about pride and the fate of the prideful in the last days. Isaiah further reveals the insidiousness of pride when he writes about Lucifer's fall from heaven and some of Satan's thoughts: "For thou hast said in thy heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High" (2 Ne. 24: 13-14). His ultimate fate is to be "brought down to hell, to the sides [or depth] of the pit" (2 Ne. 24: 15). Many will stare at him in that day and say with astonishment: "Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms?" (2 Ne. 24: 16). All of Satan's pride, all of his self-made glory, will be gone, leaving behind merely a shattered shell of his former self.

Pride puffs up the wicked; they seek to exalt themselves by whatever means they deem necessary. The Lord described the proud: "They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, 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" (D&C 1:16). Lehi and Nephi saw in vision the dwelling-place of the wicked - the great and spacious building. Lehi saw that the building "stood as it were in the air, high above the earth" (1 Ne. 8: 26); this sounds very similar to the Tower of Babel. Lehi also noted that those in the building were wearing exceedingly fine clothes, which the wicked and prideful commonly wore throughout the Book of Mormon. That building that Lehi and Nephi saw in vision represents the pride of the world: "I saw...that the great and spacious building was the pride of the world; and it fell, and the fall thereof was exceedingly great" (1 Ne. 11: 36). Those who are puffed up with pride will fall, leaving them dejected and defeated, not exalted.


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