20 September 2020

The Doctrine of Christ

I understand and honor those who want to get to the heart of any matter set before them. I am also one that tends to brush away things that I consider ancillary to real purposes. In Christ's ministry in the holy land, he went to weddings and dinners; he socialized over the course of a three year ministry. In the land of Bountiful, as recorded in the Book of Mormon, Christ was only present for a handful of days, so we don't hear of his social schedule. He was rather purposeful and almost business-like. There was little time for things like parables, collecting new followers, or answering a lot of questions.

In one crucial incident, Christ did a clear progression of things in the first hours of his visit to the people at Bountiful, as described in the third book of Nephi, chapter 11:

  1. God the Father announces and identifies Jesus and that he is the son of God (v. 3-7);
  2. Jesus show each person that he was the promised and crucified Messiah who had been prophecied would come (v. 8-17);
  3. Jesus calls Nephi and others and gives them the power to baptize (v. 18-22);
  4. Jesus explains exactly how to perform a baptism and denounces (traditional Jewish) disputations on baptism and doctrine (v. 23-30);
  5. The first rendition of the doctrine of Christ and his promise that the Holy Ghost will validate its truth (v. 31-36);
  6. The second rendition of the doctrine of Christ (v. 37);
  7. The third rendition of the doctrine of Christ (v. 38);
  8. There is nothing more or less in the doctrine of Christ. Blessing to them that preach this as Christ's doctrine and punishments for those who teach other things as the doctrine of Christ (v. 39-40); and
  9. Charge to Nephi and his brethren to go and teach these things. (v. 41)

There is a definite line of authority to baptise established, from God to Christ to Nephi and others. There is instruction on the authorized performance of the ordinance of baptism specifically to those newly authorized to perform it. There is a specific charge against speculation toward alteration of the baptism ordinance and the doctrine surrounding it. The doctrine of Christ is the singular importance of repentance and baptism to being saved and inheriting the kingdom of God, repeated three times. Finally, those authorized to baptize are instructed to preach the doctrine of repentance and baptism to everyone.

31 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.

32 And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.

33 And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.

34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.

35 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.

36 And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are bone.

37 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.

38 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

39 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.

40 And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.

41 Therefore, go forth unto this people, and declare the words which I have spoken, unto the ends of the earth.

I emphasized a phrase above because there is a strong tendency for many people to say that there is nothing more to Christ and Christianity than repentance and baptism. From my reading, this is the total sum of what needs to be done to be "saved" (how many different flavors of salvation are out there?), which is to inherit the kingdom of God. It doesn't mean there is not more to God or Christ, such as exaltation. It means that you cannot add other stipulations to salvation (as the Jews were known for), nor can you neuter or push aside any of the stated requirements, such as authoritative baptism (as some Christ-believing groups have done), and say you will still be saved. In this situation of short exposure, Christ was terribly clear and immediately repetitive on this doctrine!

Are there further blessings and opportunities that God offers us beyond this "salvation"? I strongly believe that there are, including transcendence toward exaltation, which is to become like God. I don't feel that anything said in this chapter or elsewhere in the Book of Mormon or Holy Bible proscribes or condemns such further opportunities.

What I hope to convey here is the central importance of baptism performed by those authorized to do it. For those who essentially do nothing, relying alone on the "love of Christ" to "save" them, and loudly proclaiming this concept, I can only say that Christ has already condemned such teaching and (lack of) practice and purveyors, as quoted vividly above! I will rather say this, as instructed by Christ: "Repent! Be baptized! Be saved!"

13 September 2020

"Please help me..."

Occasionally, I hear pleas from over-wrought parents - cries for help in overcoming family shortfalls that go far beyond food or paying some overdue bills. I know families with members that have near-tragic circumstances that no amount of money or personal intervention can relieve. They want to be successful; they want to be the picture-perfect family from TV shows and magazines; proud parents want their children to wins awards and acclaim, but they don't have "those" children or parents think a better job or house or marriage might make the "magic" happen.  For some reason, sometimes even of their own make, a family situation is merely broken and the only remedy is a temporary dissolution.

In some such situations, foster care can be better care than a "birth" family can provide. It sounds absolutely terrible, but the reality of smaller and more fractured families with little capacity to face larger challenges, public resources that you may have thought only dealt with criminal abuse or negligence can be a last solution for diminished and broken families.

Looking back only fifty years ago, families were larger, lead by hierarchies of unified couples, and could provide help and comfort from an extended group of people and resources bound to each other by blood and relation. If you had a difficult child, either by demeanor or handicap, there was someone in the family that could intervene, even so far as to take that child in and to provide what was needed.  If there was something your immediate family couldn't handle, the extended family very likely could.

Sadly, our society has been on a multi-decade, multi-pronged mission to destroy such families.  Many children live in households run by single, and increasingly never-married, people. Many young people purposefully reject and isolate themselves from parents and relatives in favor of transitory relationships with friends and co-workers. Too many people conceive children with no thought toward the work required to parent them well, intentions that demand a strong, stable, and resourceful (monied/brained) married couple devoted to each other and then their children.  Far too many people copulate with mounds of their own maturity/drug problems, mindless of the probable outcome. Most of the situations that made families successful in the past have been discouraged in recent times and what the past knew as family dysfunction (like never-married parenthood) is foolishly praised and even selfishly lionized.

I was a public health nutritionist twenty-five years ago.  It was painful to see 12-year-old pregnant girls brought to my office to collect food vouchers by their 26-year-old mothers (proud grandmas). There was not a husband (or stable relationship) in sight. I should have told them to give those babies up for adoption, but I was too young and frightened of the consequences to my income. More than ever, society demands the provision of public housing, food stamps, welfare checks, childcare, and a crowd of helpers for every child. Getting pregnant is often now a ticket to an enticing web of resources and services meant to replace the benefits of family in the most indiscriminate and political way possible. A girl and her coming children may technically survive day-to-day, but there will be little available with which to accomplish more (much less overcome) without massive help, especially from a large extended family (which has been mostly eliminated).  I assure you from experience that the help available from a well-funded program, filled with kindhearted and powerful social workers, do not begin to take the place of a decent extended family.  However, if you lack such an extended family, a government agency is a far better alternative than going it alone to beg help of your Facebook "friends".

Moving forward a decade or two, we see what I call "multi-generational dysfunction".  Resourceful, coupled and traditional and helpful grandparents and great-grandparents are dead; incompetent parents who rejected "the old ways" but enjoyed the crumbling remains of ancestral resources; and now grown children who had no decent examples of functioning family, no knowledge of extended family members, and nowhere to turn in difficult times except to the charity of strangers or soulless government agencies.  Increasingly, capable families cease to exist entirely and family members that are known are more of a disability than a help. No wonder society scoffs at family - in so many places, remaining families have become breeding-grounds of abuse, neglect, and dysfunction.

So, what is the product of a multi-generationally dysfunctional family to do when, for instance, a child is seriously handicapped?  If there are needs too far beyond ability, to whom should one turn?  Depressingly, a parent should face reality and take the painfully humbling step of turning to government agencies to take over the parenting of that child. If the proper care of a child is beyond parents stripped of other options, it may be time to put them out for fostering, no matter how painful or dispiriting such a move might be.  It is not just a question of money and gifts - many children and families have needs and intrinsic dysfunction that mere money can never resolve.  Sometimes, the needs of such a child are better handled by more resourceful and functional groups, often bearing governmental titles.

We should reward this - a debilitated parent's willingness to give their child over to others (even a government agency) for fostering toward a better childhood and future. I can think of no act more humbling and heart-rending to admit and to act upon voluntarily. Parents may have to make a greater sacrifice to put their children in circumstances where habitual dysfunction or serious disability might be better addressed, usually through your local government child welfare office.  Again, it sounds terrible, but isn't a child worth the personal sacrifice of giving up parental rights?  You can turn a corner for your family and set your children on a better path, even if it hurts your heart to do it.

For those of you not yet facing the decline of the  family you came from, don't let it happen on your watch!  Marry well and with devotion, have children, do what it takes to provide and nurture them well, and teach your children to follow your example!  There are so many broken families, but yours need not be one of those. Choose today not to abdicate your responsibilities to continue your family.