10 September 2021

"...ye shall not resist evil,..."

In this time of dubious justifications for dwindling liberties and forced compliance, it is good to recall Christ's teachings on such times as these. I take some excerpts from the retelling of the Sermon on the Mount to those in America in the Book of Mormon, but the concepts are the same as those found in the biblical Book of Matthew.

3 Nephi 13:25 Agree with thine adversary quickly while thou art in the way with him, lest at any time he shall get thee, and thou shalt be cast into prison.

Christ doesn't want us to do jail-time that we may not escape.  Although a few of his servants were cast into prison, it is not something he wants for us.  We are to comply with our adversaries to avoid incarceration. Note the use of the word "adversary" - we are not to join the other side, only to work together as partners when it is advantageous. Don't make others destroy you as you can't preach to the living if you are dead.

3 Nephi 13:30 For it is better that ye should deny yourselves of these things, wherein ye will take up your cross, than that ye should be cast into hell.

Though we may feel set upon or treated unfairly, we remember Jesus and how he persevered in the face of injustice. Fighting for one's rights is likely to land us in hell for our unrighteous actions, for the ends often do not justify unrighteous means. The killing of innocent combatants to get to an evil leader may still require some eternal payment. The cross is the symbol of punishment misapplied in Christ's case and a physical proof that even when faced with tyranny, we will continue to be obedient to the Lord's commandments and our covenants with God.

3 Nephi 13:39 But I say unto you, that ye shall not resist evil, ...

In the end, evil reveals our true intentions.  Will we follow Christ in all things, or will we throw him aside when difficulties and rationalizations come?

In spite of lies and confusion all around us, Christ tells us to continue to look to him.  Our mission in life is not to destroy evil but to individually overcome evil as he did and not to be individually overcome by evil. As we retain our faith and hope in the promises of Jesus in spite of a sinful world, we will be victorious in our own lives and be another example to others on how to overcome and gain the real victory.

01 August 2021

Living Up to Your Commitment

A rather unique doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reveals that all of us had an existence before birth as spirit children of God.  The Bible mentions this in reference to Jeremiah (1:5) and Job (38:4, 7). Revelations 12:7 talks of the "war in heaven", where the spirit children of God chose to follow either Jehovah (Christ) or Lucifer (Satan).  Satan's followers were cast down and Christ's followers were prepared to come to earth through birth.

When you chose Christ before you were born in mortality, it wasn't just a choice, it was a commitment.  You said you would follow Christ - that is why you are here.  Mortality is called a lot of things, but it may be thought of like a very extended military "boot camp".  It is designed to ascertain if you are qualified to be part of God's "army".

The biggest thing to remember is that you committed to this.  You enlisted in God's development program. I suppose you can say that you did not bargain for the trials presently faced, but it was all explained to you previously, including the fact that you would not remember anything prior to your enlistment.  Once you start down this path, you can't bow out until you complete "boot camp", at least not honorably. That is literally suicide on a few levels.

Repentance and baptism are described in holy writ as the gate that opens upon the path to the promised life with God:

2 Nephi 31:17-18

Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.

Our lives are designed to be the testing of our committment to Christ and God that we gave before our birth. It is well to remember that punishments promised to the disobedient are proportionate to the committments and covenants we made.

Training is rigorous, to be sure. It is a proving ground, to say the least.  It was what God offered - the path forward.  Christ laid the trail and showed us the way. We must all prove ourselves worthy to continue on the path and every committed person will pass this test of mortality.  You can do it.

31 July 2021

The Importance of Finding Joy in Simple Things

This world is crazy and it is just getting more so.  How do I cope?

I spend workweek evenings living on an acre of desert land I bought within commuting distance from my job.

My first shelter was a geodesic dome greenhouse that I built from a kit.  I didn't anchor it down as well as the instructions said and a big wind picked it up, tore it apart, and deposited it in a neighbor's field.  I found it and rebuilt it again, did a better job of tying it to the ground, and ultimately covered it with a much more durable tarp.  I don't live in it anymore, but it has proven very good for storage.

The dome made a lot of noise and even though I had a fine bedframe and bed, I was losing sleep with the original polyester sheeting cover snapping in the wind and getting torn up over the weeks.  I thought about how to solve the problem and settled on buying a trailered MacGregor 25 sailboat from a guy on a nearby lake.  It was much cheaper than a comparable RV and gives me the added bonus of naturally being secure from cows and coyotes that tear things up.  My bed and frame are shoe-horned in the galley area and I don't have to worry about my 1-ton boat blowing away.

Recent rains have brought out horseflies and mosquitoes, so I have a mosquito net up to protect me from the various bugs that like to nibble on me when I try to sleep.  So far, the situation works well and I have weathered some strong storms that shook the boat hard but kept me dry and protected.

You may be wondering why I titled this "finding joy in simple things", after I describe what a lot of people would describe as pretty strange and primitive living conditions.

I get out on the deck of my boat and look up at the sky.  I get there when it is still light out and I look at the clouds in the sky.  As time passes toward dusk, the clouds get colored and are amazing to behold.  There are often stormclouds that come off the mountains just east of me, bringing very pleasant and cool breezes (I like a good stiff wind) and dramatic scenes as the sun sets.

Once the files and mosquitoes settle down after dusk, I can get out from under my mosquito net and look up at the stars, which are simply incredible.  If the moon is not casting a dim light over the desert at the moment, I can actually see the march of the constellations and planets and even the Milky Way is usually visible, looking like a spray of clouds in the heavens. I usually drift off to sleep that way and something will wake me up later to actually move into the galley and get into my proper bed.

Mornings supply a similar scene as sundown, although with colors like pink and purple. 

So, in the face of corruption and unkindness from all directions, I can get away and enjoy the beauties that God, our Father in Heaven, has provided for us.  It probably doesn't require a desert locale or a boat to look into the skies and enjoy the wonders of the heavens, but I know that it took a conscious choice to re-aquaint myself with them. You might do something similar and find elusive joy.

As we toil through a world falling into despair, we can turn to simple and unaffected things with which God has blessed us and find joy in his promises of a blessed future to those who turn to him. Better things can be ahead!

22 July 2021

Repentance Means Change for the Better

My readings in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants have inspired me to use this blog to repeat and repeat the charge to all that we must repent. I woke today thinking that it might be useful to help people understand what I interpret repentance to actually is and, perhaps more importantly, what it looks like.

Repentance is a change of heart and behavior that better aligns us with Christ and his commandments.

It is a short statement, but there is plenty packed into it.

First, it is important to gain a personal understanding of God, his Christ, and what they command us to do. Jesus did what his Father (and our Heavenly Father) told him to do, even the difficult things. Much of what we know of God comes to us from the example and teachings of Christ and his prophets throughout time. Jesus went about doing good and we should do the same. I know it would have been very useful for Jesus to have rallied his followers into an army, taken control of local government, and forced the people of Judea to behave better, but that isn't the right way to effect a change of heart. Christ lived the life more like an itinerant preacher, moving from place to place, teaching and healing and serving as an individual man and encouraging his followers to do likewise. A lasting change of behavior only comes with a authentic change of heart, not just some display or pretense.  It cannot be forced externally but cultivated internally.

Second, Christ is perfectly aligned with God - Jesus commits himself fully what is commanded of him and he follows through on that committment, even when it is difficult.  The act of taking on himself all the sins of the repentant and dying on a cross as a young man was a tremendous sacrifice that God required of him.  God has other work for us to do to show our devotion to him, certainly less dramatic.  Primarily, he asks us to put aside desires and devotion toward wealth and fame and instead "impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally.” (Mosiah 4:26) In doing these things, we align our lives with Christ's and do the good works God commanded us to do.

Again, repentance is a change of heart and behavior. As we read of the doings and teachings of Christ and the words of God's prophets, we let them affect our hearts and begin to feel more charity and love toward others. We desire to help those in need, both physically and spiritually.  I think it is useful to begin helping others even if we don't yet feel much love toward them - our service will soon bring on such feelings. As we do this, we will begin to feel toward others as Jesus does and behave more like him. Worldly concerns will fade in comparison to the service we can do. God will bless our efforts with resources and further opportunities to continue to serve others in meaningful ways that bless rather than coerce. We will feel greater joy in life, no matter what troubles we may personally face.

Our mortals lives are like a schooling opportunity: as we come to understand God and Christ and obey them, we learn how to become our best selves and qualify for the greater opportunities that they enjoy and desire to share with us. It all starts with changing our hearts and actions, which is repentance.

30 June 2021

My Thoughts on the CES Letter

 "Yes, Virginia, I have read the CES Letter..." and my response follows.

I have had spiritual experiences for decades in relation to scripture and God's hand in my life. These experiences satisfy me that God exists, that God speaks to prophets who record their experiences in whatever way they deem fitting, whether through speeches or writing or videos, and that God continues to work for the exaltation of men and women. 

Through divine intervention in my own life and years of reading and reflection, I am satified that the Book of Mormon was written and translated by those who were acting on God's influence and instruction. I am satisfied that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the structure through which Christ effects his promises and authorized priesthood toward God's purposes. It is an organization founded and run by rather ordinary people with faults and shortcomings. I am also satisfied that there is no intent to deceive or profiteer among Church leadership and any success that the Church enjoys, financial or otherwise, comes from proper stewardship and heavenly inspiration. I am futher satisfied that malfeasance within the Church is resolved in a manner consistent with justice and upon its discovery.

I respect those with great experience, especially God, who I revere as the Father of all, in sharing their wisdom with me as they will. Just as any parent produces a sheltered environment in which children learn and grow into maturity and adulthood, I trust that a Heanvenly Father set that same standard for me. I realize that I am still a child in many ways and trust that God will reveal greater knowledge when I am mature enough to understand and put such wisdom to righteous uses. Like any responsible parent, I reject juvenile calls for "full disclosure", especially from those who prefer to use such information destructively or ignorantly. Countries carefully guard "nuclear secrets" from "bad actors" to prevent global destruction - the same principle applies to sharing our more "sacred" beliefs with those who are bent on our personal destruction. 

There will always be detractors and dissenters from every point of view, from every culture and nation, and from every faith. Nothing on this earth is of a perfect nature and faults, real or contrived, will always surface for those resolved to dredging up such. I have always found that any endeavor or fact is made better by the influence of sincere and forthright people with good hearts. I have also come to know that any endeavor or fact can be defaced by the evil acts and accusations of those who seek only to destroy and denegrate. One's "facts" and intentions can be evaluated by the demeanor and vitriol of those who proclaim them - people are usually neither as good or as bad as their supporters or their critics purport them to be.

In relation to Joseph Smith, I find that the Book of Mormon has been a great benefit to me and I am grateful to the man who produced it, no matter how it was done.  My esteem for Joseph Smith and his associates in the church he founded is based upon the positive influence that the Book of Mormon and other writings have had upon my life. The Holy Bible and my reading of it have also been of great worth to me and I honor both Jew and Gentile that brought it into my family, faults notwithstanding.  I am willing to set human foibles aside to better appreciate the value I find in these remarkable texts and those associated with them.

It is useful for me to evaluate people or groups by their "fruits". In my estimation, those associated with Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are doing good and becoming better, both individually and collectively. I have found that these good and better results are direct reflections on the summed life of the man, the stories and lessons in the book, and teachings and purposes of the church. God's ultimate goal of the exaltation of men and women is far better accomplished through the efforts of faithful Latter-day Saints than through the doubt and dessension promulgated through "the CES Letter", which I recommend to none. 

Understanding the Voice of the Lord

Increasing numbers of people ignore established sources of wisdom that God provides through prophets. The world is becoming more tumultuous and the "experts" to whom many turn for answers are often revealed as vacuous and unreliable, more often wrong than right. The need for wise guidance has never been greater and those who know how to hear God will get the peace and direction that each of us desires in these confusing times.

I am grateful yet again for the writings of inspired prophets of God that we have today from the Book of Mormon:

 3 Nephi 11:4-6

And it came to pass that again they heard the voice, and they understood it not.

And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.

And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard;

In this instance, God was speaking to the people but they could not understand. We may very well sit in a church or read from scriptures and thus hear the messages from God, but we may not actually understand what God is telling us.  In these verses, a prophet helps us to better understand what God has to tell us:

  1. We have to "open our ears to hear it". So many times, God has already provided answers, but we are too distracted by our own cares to "hear" them. As we set aside quiet time to put the responsibilities of life on hold, we will be more ready to hear what God wants to tell us.  I recall being in places far from the bustle of life that are quiet enough that you can hear the breeze and distant rustle of trees and the occassional bird. In such circumstances, where the buzz of our busy lives is far away, we have a better situation to "open our ears" to what God is saying.
  2. We must focus on God, the true source of wisdom. In the verses above, "their eyes were towards the sound". I recall how often my children would talk to me and I obviously wasn't listening - I wasn't looking at them and paying real attention to what they said.  How often do we also hear from God yet are not similarly paying attention?
  3. We can get answers directly from God. "...they did look steadfastly toward heaven...". It is good to listen to pastors, priests, and teachers, but it is better still to listen more to God who knows you and what you need far better. True prophets will always encourage a better and more direct access to God, so that we can "understand the voice".
I will be bold here and say that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints points me to scripture and prophets that put me on a direct path to a better understanding of God and Jesus Christ.  I am grateful for the Prophet Joseph Smith who translated the Book of Mormon so that we could have that better understanding of God and Christ's labors on our behalf. I am grateful for prophets that speak to us today, continuously pointing us toward God and what he is saying.  

If we "open our ears" and look to him, we too will understand what he is saying to us.

16 June 2021

The Messiah is not LazyJesus

There is much hyperventilating over the new-age concept of God's "unconditional love" for all.  You can likely hear my attitude about it - I think it is a bad road to take.  In so many scriptures, we are told of the conditional nature of salvation and the Lord's favor comes to us if we repent.  I just tripped over another one this morning:

3 Nephi 9:22

Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved.

Many years ago, I created a fake diety called "LazyJesus" and really should have trademarked it. LazyJesus lounges on a theological couch, engrossed in some TV program, and dismissively forgives everyone so he is not interrupted.   LazyJesus saves everyone because he is too busy to make distinctions between good and bad. LazyJesus is that distant dad that isn't paying attention and lets the kids do whatever they please and never disciplines anybody and provides needed cover for any behavior.  The love of LazyJesus is measured by his ability to ignore what is happening and provide a neverending stream of things free of any requirement. LazyJesus sadly seems to be the God of many modern "Christians".

The idea that Christ has "unconditional" love is yet another indicator that a person worships LazyJesus as opposed to the Christ found in scripture. From the scripture above, we see that "whoso repenteth" will be received in the kingdom of God. In the next phrase is the focus of my thoughts here:  "for such".  This is Christ himself speaking and he says that the act of laying down his life and taking it up again was "for such". One of the central acts of the atonement of Christ was done for "whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child", not for others (not unconditional). Then, another powerful word - therefore - which is to say "based on everything I said before".  Because of the fact that only those who repent and become as little children in obedience to Christ get the kingdom of God and Jesus' sacrifice was done only for them, he reinforces the need for repentance and coming unto him and that this is salvation.

What is the point of the followers of LazyJesus referencing "unconditional love" so much?  It seems to be the inappropriate co-mingling of "love" and "salvation" - such people must think that all people are saved because Jesus loves everyone.  Does the true Christ love you? Yes. Does the fact that he loves you mean that you will be saved? No. A large expression of Christ's love is in providing the opportunity to be saved.  Everyone can be saved, but only under the conditions of repentance.  At least in this case, love doesn't conquer all - you must still repent.  That is why I constantly bring up repentance - I am just echoing what Christ says all the time throughout scripture!

I advise you against being a devotee of the fictional LazyJesus.  LazyJesus can't save. The true Christ that preaches repentance - he can and does save, if you repent.