Sunday, October 15, 2017

Peace In Zion In Babylon

There's a lot of racial strife in America.

And America isn't even the worst place in the world for racial strife. 

But the devil is always at work causing turmoil, using people to cause turmoil, while saying they are doing it for peaceful reasons.

But I just sat in a combined ward sacrament - Spanish and English - where both languages were spoken and our children performed in a primary program together.

The hymns were sang in both Spanish and English together.

The sacrament prayers were given one in English, one in Spanish.

The presiding priesthood got up to speak in both languages to address the congregation.

We all sat together.

Children of our father in heaven.

One in the covenant.

Our children together learning of our same heavenly father.

There's peace here - even if we do it imperfectly - the Lord is bringing us peace here.

There's a lot of talk about coming together - we did and do it all the time as Latter Day Saints as we build Zion.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Worthy to Enter - Samuel

I've learned that worthiness is a very personal thing.

It actually varies from person to person because we all have to interpret the law according to our ability, and we have to strive according to our capacity, and in those things are as different from each other as there are days in a lifetime and more. 

I think we all have had an experience with someone we thought or even knew shouldn't be in the temple for one worthiness-related-reason-or-another, or we have felt unworthy ourselves to enter the temple.

At one time I had to check my own worthiness to participate in a temple ordinance while I was at the MTC - myself and another Elder had a disagreement and weren't on the best of terms at the time.  The time came in the temple when we ended up attending the same sesion and we were asked to reflect on whether we had unkind feelings towards one another.  The realization that our hearts needed to be right before the Lord hit us both.  He and I looked at each other and realized that we both needed to repent, did the male-nod-thing and reconciled with each other with a look, and then proceeded with our spirits right before the Lord in his house.  It was a time when the temple ordinances brought peace to our lives and helped us repent - as the scriptures say that if we have unkind feelings we are to go first be reconciled to our brother before we make our offerings.

But in 1st Samuel I found a fairly explicit violation of the temple worthy-to-enter standards that kind of shocked me:

22 Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. (1 Samuel 2)

I suppose what comforted me in some fashion was that this issue - abominations in the temple etc. -  wasn't a new thing.  On the flip side, I was comforted because I know that worthiness to enter is something we take seriously still, and even recently one of the seventy was excommunicated.  It's not that we want people excommunicated, but I'm grateful that worthiness is still something that's taken seriously in the temple and even in Latter Day Saint culture AND religion.  If anything, I think many of us Latter Day Saints struggle to feel worthy enough to enter actually.

At any rate, it was just something I came across in the scriptures that caught my eye and had me counting my blessings that I live in an era - the era - where I can have confidence that the church leaders will not lead us astray and that I live in the era where the gospel won't fail.  I was grateful I can have confidence that even if things aren't right, I live in the dispensation when things can be and will be made right.  I'm not living as Moroni watching apostasy and civilization-collapse, or even as Eli or any of the others who watched such abominations proceed unchecked.

There will always be wolves in sheep's clothing, there will always be traitors, and so on. 

Just this time around I know they won't prevail.

I just gotta check myself and keep an eye on myself.




Monday, September 4, 2017

The Genocide of the Tribe of Benjamin, Moroni and the Lamanites

I don't understand everything about the Israelites, I know they were apostate very often and drifted very far from the teachings of the Lord at times.  But in the Book of Judges, chapter 20, I found a war that occurred between the Benjaminites and their brethren.

In this war most of the tribe of Benjamin was about wiped out, there was not going to be left any posterity of them.  

By chapter 21, they mourned the loss of their brethren and what was going to be a breach in the tribes of Israel and the breaking of the Lord's covenant towards the tribes at their hands.   So they took action and found a way to save the tribe's posterity according to the Law of Moses.

All of this might have been a singular, overlooked event in the chapters of the bible had I not remembered that Moroni and Mormon and Nephi and all the others had done something similar in regards to preserving their apostate brethren the Lamanites.  

There was a covenant to the Lamanites given of the Lord that they would be spared and one day driven by the gentiles but not destroyed, and one day be brought back.

Moroni, finishing his writing wrote to his brethren that the covenant of the Lord might be preserved to them - by his hand they are and were saved through his writing and the knowledge of the covenants that are in the book.

To think about it one way, between Joseph Smith and Moroni, they were combined greater than Moses in terms of a restoration of the house of Israel.

It was just something I found while  reading the scriptures, a similarity, and it was another evidence to me that Moroni really was from a land and a culture and heritage that the book says he was.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Evidences of the Book of Mormon

I joined the church without having read the Book of Mormon.  I didn't know how.  I tried to read it
but it didn't make sense to me. I had received an answer the church was God's church, but it was over a year or so before I could read the scriptures and understand what it was I was learning about.

Over the years the book began to be open to me through study and reading.  I began to read about this and that evidence, this proof, this language and that archeological evidence, this similarity and that....

As I served a mission in the deep south I became adept at the scriptures and learned this and that evidence, this witness, the answers to that question and so on, and in the end....

None of us were alive in the days of the Jews, so basing our testimony on cultural or historical this or that simply isn't relevant to most of us.  Few of us can base a testimony on metallurgy or what types of metallic records were kept, or modes of transportation used or literary styles or author's voices etc.  It simply isn't something we can base a testimony on.

And in the end....what's the testimony of? 

Metallurgy?  Horse migrations?  Literary style? 

It's about Jesus Christ.

It's about drawing us closer to the Lord.

If the book helps us do that, and understand Christ better  then...it's true and there's the evidence.  The evidence that it's true.

That's really the only evidence we need.

We are fools if we either try to build a testimony on anything else, or let a pretended and superficial knowledge/ignorance of anything else distract us from that. 

That's the only proof we need.   And if we read it carefully, and pray about what we read, we will know that it is of the Lord.   The rest....are only ultimately distractions unless we are built upon Christ and using them to build up our faith in his miraculous work.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Pray Always: Lessons from Joshua

Joshua was a mighty prophet of the Lord - even making the sun to stand still at one point so the Israelites might finish a conquest.

I've wondered at times why the Lord would command so many nations to be killed before Israel - until I read the sins of those countries and cities which are hinted at in the scriptures - in short their sins made them beyond degenerate and like Sodom and Gomorrah and about the only thing that could be done with them was to lay waste to them for their own eternal sake as so they didn't creep back up like a cancer or some noxious weed to corrupt the nation of Israel.  

But what's interesting is the Lord gave certain lands to the Israelites, they were going to conquer and finish laying waste to them as they previously had, all by commandment and covenant of the Lord - and the Gibeonites knowing that they were on the list of people to be slaughtered - decided to trick the Israelites into making a covenant with them:

3 And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai,
4 They did work wilily, and went and made as if they had been ambassadors, and took old sacks upon their asses, and wine bottles, old, and rent, and bound up;
5 And old shoes and clouted upon their feet, and old garments upon them; and all the bread of their provision was dry and mouldy.
6 And they went to Joshua unto the camp at Gilgal, and said unto him, and to the men of Israel, We be come from a far country: now therefore make ye a league with us.
7 And the men of Israel said unto the Hivites, Peradventure ye dwell among us; and how shall we make a league with you?
8 And they said unto Joshua, We are thy servants. And Joshua said unto them, Who are ye? and from whence come ye?
9 And they said unto him, From a very far country thy servants are come because of the name of the Lord thy God: for we have heard the fame of him, and all that he did in Egypt,
10 And all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, which was at Ashtaroth.
11 Wherefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spake to us, saying, Take victuals with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say unto them, We are your servants: therefore now make ye a league with us.
12 This our bread we took hot for our provision out of our houses on the day we came forth to go unto you; but now, behold, it is dry, and it is mouldy:
13 And these bottles of wine, which we filled, were new; and, behold, they be rent: and these our garments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long journey.
14 And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord.
15 And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto them.  (Joshua 9). 

There's a lot of lessons here. 

One - the prophet of the Lord is not infallible - especially when he doesn't ask the Lord's counsel.  A mortal man with the priesthood can still make mistakes - as was written by Nephi: "And now, if I do err, even did they err of old not that I would excuse myself because of other men, but because of the weakness which is in me, according to the flesh, I would excuse myself." - (1 Nephi 19:6)

But beyond this because they didn't ask what they needed to at the hands of the Lord...they now made an oath that put them at odds with the blessing the Lord had given them in terms of their inheritances - and they had a contradiction to deal with between the Lord and the oath they made which was sworn by the Lord. 

I imagine there was some pride there in what they did - a feeling of satisfaction after their conquests and a bit of confidence at this point - which led to their being beguiled. 

But the main lesson I learned was that we need to ask the Lord and consult with him in all our affairs always - not just now and then and not just the ones we think we need to.  Am I smart enough not to consult with the Lord?  No I am not. Am I smart enough to know what I should consult with him on while disregarding the other things?  

Again no. 

Even Joseph Smith was warned at one point in a similar vein to Joshua: 37 But as you cannot always judge the righteous, or as you cannot always tell the wicked from the righteous, therefore I say unto you, hold your peace until I shall see fit to make all things known unto the world concerning the matter.  (Doctrine and Covenants 10). 

Pray always.  Ask always.  Check always.   

We have the gift of the Holy Ghost and the priesthood...we need to use them. 

Follow the guidance of the Lord. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Ammaron Commanded Mormon: Three Burials of Plates

I had thought that there were two burials of the plates from the Nephites.

Now I discover that there were three burials of plates.

Ammaron buried one set, Mormon buried another set, and Moroni buried the last set.

Burial 1:

1 And now I, Mormon, make a record of the things which I have both seen and heard, and call it the Book of Mormon.
2 And about the time that Ammaron hid up the records unto the Lord, he came unto me, (I being about ten years of age, and I began to be learned somewhat after the manner of the learning of my people) and Ammaron said unto me: I perceive that thou art a sober child, and art quick to observe;
3 Therefore, when ye are about twenty and four years old I would that ye should remember the things that ye have observed concerning this people; and when ye are of that age go to the land Antum, unto a hill which shall be called Shim; and there have I deposited unto the Lord all the sacred engravings concerning this people.
4 And behold, ye shall take the plates of Nephi unto yourself, and the remainder shall ye leave in the place where they are; and ye shall engrave on the plates of Nephi all the things that ye have observed concerning this people. (Mormon1 ) 

SO!

We give credit, rightly, to Mormon for writing the Book of Mormon.  But it was Ammaron who gave Mormon the charge to do the work.....

(How come I never hear this in church?  This process really is a miracle...)

(Burial 2)

6 And it came to pass that when we had gathered in all our people in one to the land of Cumorah, behold I, Mormon, began to be old; and knowing it to be the last struggle of my people, and having been commanded of the Lord that I should not suffer the records which had been handed down by our fathers, which were sacred, to fall into the hands of the Lamanites, (for the Lamanites would destroy them) therefore I made this record out of the plates of Nephi, and hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to me by the hand of the Lord, save it were these few plates which I gave unto my son Moroni. (Mormon 6). 

Burial 3 was Moroni burying the final set of plates of course.

At any rate....just amazing to find things hidden in plain sight and to whoever Ammaron was - I'm grateful he was as diligent and as mighty as man as he was, and that Mormon was so attentive as a child....

Monday, July 17, 2017

Just the Messenger

As an Elder I give a lot of blessings.   It seems to be something people come to me frequently for, several times a month at least, and on some occasions several times a day and sometimes back-to-back within my family.  It is one of my favorite and most cherished experiences and opportunities in mortality. 

One of the first things I came to realize as an Elder was that during giving blessings though is: you don't get to pick what to say.

And then on top of that, on some rare occasions, the Lord sends you out as a messenger to deliver messages via blessings that aren't what people want to hear or even expect.....

Then you find yourself in a position of displeasing the Lord by not giving it, or displeasing the person getting the blessing.

But if I can draw on the experience of the young rich man who asked Christ what he must do to inherit eternal life, the answer he was given - a blessing of counsel - was not an answer that he wanted.  He went away sorrowing. 

On one occasions I was told by the recipient of a blessing I gave that I wasn't correct, and she later told me that the stake president said I was wrong (she said, he said). This shook my faith in my priesthood so badly, and incidentally the church and the gospel, that I declined to give blessings for several years afterwards.

The woman they were given to it turns out was in serious transgression however, precisely as the blessing had said, and as it had warned her - but I didn't know this even though the priesthood blessing had said so.  Meanwhile I got told I was to blame and was exercising unrighteous dominion, but I was horrified to think I had done something wrong and no longer trusted myself or my priesthood or even the gospel for years! 

But fortunately this is not the majority of blessings.

In the end I've learned a few things about priesthood blessings:

Be worthy to give them.
Give them with faith and courage and care.
Leave the interpretation to the listeners / recipient.
Realize that they come from the Lord, and trust him to work them out.

I've learned that some blessings are given to help people grow into maturity.

I've also learned some people are not prepared to receive them even when they get them.

I've also learned that the Lord loves his children, even when he gives them difficult blessings.  Sometimes he leaves the sick unhealed, he calls other's home from mortality - both children and adults - jobs are lost, relationships end, we are called to repentance and told there are things we need to do better.


There have also been times I wasn't prepared to receive a blessing. 

I've heard people say that their patriarchal blessings are off and weren't accurate at all.  I can't speak to others' blessings.  I know mine is read regularly and frequently, completely at least once a month, always taken to the temple and read there when I'm there, and referenced every week as I try to live up to it.  And I know the counsel it gives is so true and such a comfort to my life. It is my most prized blessing.  It is because I use it and grow into it and I bring to pass the things that are in it - and it was true and conditional upon my faithfulness to begin with.  Were it not true, no effort on my part could make it true so clearly it was true. 

Ultimately, we are human having spiritual experiences meaning there's a lot of imperfection down here and we are just trying to do our best, both on the giving and the receiving end. 

But not all blessings are going to be "sunshine and lollipops" - some are going to foretell thing we may be very uncomfortable with and need to prepare for.  I have one in particular on my mission from my first mission companion that made me very very sad and that was very very painful, but that has come true on so many levels.  I have often remarked that of all the priesthood blessings I've been given, that one sadly seems to have been the most accurate. 

In the end, receiving blessings, like all aspects of our lives takes faith, courage, and a bit of introspection.  We need to understand the nature of our lives, of our mortal existence, as well as the nature of blessings in order to truly utilize them and receive them - but also to give them.