Monday, August 29, 2016

Abridging Scriptures: A "Common" Practice

We think of Mormon as being the "abridger" of the Book of Mormon.

He began abridging after Omni and abridged five books, and didn't finish his own, having been killed in battle partway through his own chapter, and the record being given to his son.

So Moroni finished his father's chapter (Mormon) and then also abridged Ether, and then finished with his own book.

But the one that somehow escaped my attention was that Nephi abridged Lehi's work:

17 But I shall make an account of my proceedings in my days. Behold, I make an abridgment of the record of my father, upon plates which I have made with mine own hands; wherefore, after I have abridged the record of my father then will I make an account of mine own life.
(1 Nephi 1)

But abridging and summarizing work isn't a new practice that began with Nephi.

Genesis isn't a first-hand account, it is a summary or recount or abridgement given by Moses as a restorer of Israel, of the creation.   Not sure where he got his information, either by urim and thummim, or off another record, but it's interesting of the records we have, the earliest that's been handed down to us comes from a restorer - Moses a few thousand years after the creation.  We didn't receive the original record from Adam but through a restorer. 

So the Book of Mormon concept isn't a new concept where a restorer summarizes and catches everybody up or gives what we need to know to us.  But there's also a spiritual principle that's laid out in the scriptures on this in terms of summarizing and what's to be presented and shared by the servants of the Lord:

9 ...It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
 10 And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
 11 And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell. (Alma 12). 

There were many times in the Book of Mormon where the prophets were counseled not to share what was revealed to them - and this practice is also given to us in the temples, and with special blessings we are given.  

At any rate, thought for the day while I was reading the scriptures.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Two Sets of Records Buried: By Mormon and Moroni

This was the place....
I somehow missed that it is recorded in the Book of Mormon that there were two deposits of plates - one by Mormon and one by Moroni, in Mormon 6 we read:

 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.

So.....Mormon hid plates.....and Moroni hid plates as well.

This is in harmony with another account drawn from many sources, but is quoted from Brigham Young:

“Oliver Cowdery went with the Prophet Joseph when he deposited these plates. Joseph did not translate all of the plates; there was a portion of them sealed, which you can learn from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. When Joseph got the plates, the angel instructed him to carry them back to the hill Cumorah, which he did. Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver went there, the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room. He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had the light of the sun or artificial light; but that it was just as light as day. They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls. The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates; it was unsheathed, and on it was written these words: “This sword will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and his Christ.”

At any rate,  something I missed that I found and thought was enlightening and a missing puzzle piece in the gospel.

My last thought? 

It is interesting where the Nephites, and one kingdom ended, the last kingdom of the last dispensation of the last days began.  The Hill Cumorah is where the Nephites ended and fell and their records were buried, and the Hill Cumorah is where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints "began." 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Remembering Laman and Lemuel's Service

One of the things that amazes me about the priesthood is that it reveals things that are hidden so often.

The Holy Ghost often teaches me about the scriptures - things that I never saw myself.

So it was tonight in prayer as I wondered what to do while I struggle in the church with some issues that surround me.   First, I found that prayer was an amazing comfort and I got answers that I hadn't received before.

I was told to regard the story of Nephi, in my prayers.
THIS is how we get brass plates and help our companions...

It was pointed out to me that though Laman and Lemuel were pains-in-the-neck to Nephi, they did assist him very much with his journey and mission.  They helped him build his ship, helped him get the brass plates....indeed, much of what Nephi did wouldn't have been possible were it not for them.  I don't know that I would have as much patience as Nephi did with them beating him and all. But his patience is a virtue to have.

We are Latter Day Saints.  We do need to push it harder and be better than the world even though we have many of the same problems as Babylon - but I never thought, until tonight - that were it not for Laman and Lemuel, some of the blessings we have in the gospel simply wouldn't be possible. 

Now we don't want to be like Laman and Lemuel, ultimately, but we can't forget that though they were difficult, some good things came about because of them, but also, how patiently the Lord worked with them.

I need to remember how diligent the Lord was in Jacob 5 in the olive-tree allegory.  He labored very hard to save the tree even though it wasn't growing the way he wanted it too....we need to remember to do these things as well with the Lord's children and servants and kingdom.....Laman and Lemuel being one example of such diligence and patience.

I need to be like Nephi with his brothers and remember he didn't just write them off, but also remember that at one point they did actually help further the Lord's work.

(I can just feel people saying "ohh, that's not the point of Laman and Lemuel! And if we glorify them we will lead people down the road to apostasy! They were evil!"  Well...yes they were, and this isn't glorifying for sure, but that's not the only thing about them ever and always and those are the things I think we sometimes miss in that and other stories).

Anyways, this perspective came about from prayer.  And this is one way I know that God talks to me because he tells me things I never knew before or understood before.  And I never saw this aspect of the story of Laman and Lemuel until tonight.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Jewish Convert's Perspective on the Book of Mormon

(Most of us are Ephraim - but we are all Israel at last...)
I had a home-teaching companion that was a Jewish convert once.

To hear him open the scriptures and teach from the Jewish teachings are among my choicest scripture-related experiences in life.

At this point, I'm not going to expound from my own knowledge, but am going to share a link here on the subject - an article that discusses 10 things a Jewish convert to Mormonism noticed about the Book of Mormon from her perspectives as a Jew.

If you're new to the blog, you might find some entertainment in one of my not-so-bright memories as a missionary involving the Jewish faith found HERE. 

At any rate, either one is good, but the former is more educational.

All in all the former link helps me see just how little I know about our scriptures.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Laman and Lemuelish: Corrected by Moroni

I'm struggling within the church right now for a lot of reasons.

I know the church is true, however there's a lot I just don't know how to handle or what to do about

Moving from the middle of Sodom (an extremely liberal city) to the middle of "mormon central" has been extremely disconcerting - if mostly for the sense of self-righteousness that is too prevalent among the saints here.   While I struggle to adjust to the culture, it scares me to see how much more we, as a people, are like Laman and Lemuel than we are Nephi.

As I search for answers to my concerns, even as a church leader, I found an answer tonight during family scripture study:

As I read the second epistle of Mormon to Moroni, it hit me just how wicked the Nephites were that Mormon and Moroni were leaders over.  Their people were literally raping and torturing people to death. They had labored with all their might to recover this people spiritually.

Suddenly when I look around at us out here in "Zion" I think maybe we aren't so bad off and certainly not beyond recovery, but this being said - we have a lot of work to do, and we have a lot to answer for.

As I reflect upon this further I realize that the work of reclaiming a lost people is the work that's gone on from the beginning. to do it? 

Well....for starters I need to be searching for inspiration in the scriptures while I ponder and repenting myself.   But I also realize: I'm not from here.  I wasn't raised in the Mormon culture, I have a different set of expectations from the Lord's people and the Lord's gospel and church.  There are a lot of things that we do as a people that I don't read about in the scriptures that I just can't see the Lord finding acceptable but that we justify in our culture.  Things that keep many of the righteous out of the church as they look to us while we profess to the the Lord's true church - that they also don't expect from us.

So what to do?  I think I need to start with reading my scriptures for now and praying.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Trial of Faith: Sorting Wheat From Chaff.

I think we all get bit at some point...or even bite others....
I know everyone comes to this juncture in the gospel sooner or later, it's just mine is coming now.

I'm about as protective of my children as they come, and to have my children threatened and harmed in the church while adults aren't paying attention, and then to have the person who did it say that he can't be stopped no matter what happens to him - well with my profession that can't, by law, go unreported (and I'm being deliberately vague here) but.....well....I'm not quite sure what to do anymore socially in my ward.

I would change wards immediately, but my wife's disability makes that an impossibility because the other ward in town, she can't get her wheelchair into, and getting her into the other ward at an earlier time with her disability isn't possible.  Then the thought comes to me that there are going to be problems no matter where I go - though hopefully not the gettting-the-authorities-involved-type. Once is enough and I have zero tolerance, but also don't like feeling like I'm the problem for doing what needs to be done.

At any rate, trying to dodge and avoid people in church really isn't the thing I want to do and I just don't have patience for - I'm an outsider here - I live now in a place where though I'm extremely conservative where I'm from, I'm viewed as extremely liberal here because of my profession working in criminal mental health.   So I don't really feel like I have much refuge here.  I know there are wards that have dysfunctional narcissism at every level, and the church isn't for perfect people, and we are supposed to forgive, yadda yadda yadda.

But when you realize just how much you rely on the church to be your home and your refuge from the world, to de-stress and draw close to heavenly father, and all of a sudden your children are being harmed and threatened and parents and church leaders aren't looking out for your children...that's not supposed to happen in the one true church.

Does it?   It happened to me.  But it's not supposed to.

It's exhausting when all of a sudden rather than a place to uplift, it becomes an  exercise in dysfunctional social psychology despite us trying to live the gospel. Beyond what it normally is.

And then, I look at Joseph Smith and even Christ and what they suffered with how many traitors they went through and I'm like...I don't know what to do, honestly, or how to feel.

I, really, with my wife's disability, have zero energy for much more than showing up at church, and the social pressure that comes with being LDS and to forgive...well, here's a few thoughts on this.

In addition to the pressure to forgive, what about the pressure to repent?  It seems we put so much pressure on forgiveness but not as much on repentance. It seems so much like we are supposed to just read an Ensign article and instantly feel better and live the gospel by immediately forgiving and yet....that's honestly the psychology of so many abusers and much of society where we push the victims to forgive so we can all "just move on".  
I haven't been apologized to, nobody's followed up with our family, and what am I?  Some hoity-toity unforgiving jerk because I'm disturbed and shaken and stressed by what's happened and I don't want to go to my ward anymore or really want my children involved with these adults or their kids anymore?  Do I not have faith anymore?  Am I overreacting?  (Honestly, all my professional training showed this was criminal behavior and behavioral observations of the perpetrator shows me that the offender has some issues).

I really don't know what to do with this.

"Pray about it!" I can hear people saying.

Yes, yes I should.  Add to the complications that I'm a leader in our ward so simply disappearing with anonymity is out - nevermind the fact that I have three children and my wife's a teacher in the ward so simply disappearing isn't really an option though tempting...I really don't know what to do.

I just know, that as I apply what I know of psychology and human behavior, that I think even the gospel takes time to have an effect.  Even God works in eternities.  Though as I think about it, it seems we are willing to give all the time in the world for people to investigate the gospel, and to repent, but forgiveness is seemed to be expected to be immediate and if people can't forgive, then something's wrong with them.  I can hear the parable about the rattlesnake bite that fills us with poison and how we can spend our time chasing the rattlesnake meanwhile the poison kills us, and equating the poison to how forgiveness needs to be done quickly before anger destroys us.  But I think forgiveness is a matter of healing and much more than simply not caring what happens to you. I don't think people taking time to forgive is really just people holding out while they decide to be jerks, until they finally pull their boots up and decide to be Saints and be holy and spiritual and forgive.

Anyways, this blog entry is me processing and sharing.

I know the church is true.

I know the people aren't perfect.

I know we're there to strengthen each other.  But my family is crippled already and smaller things do greater damage to our energy, and bigger things like this that I know and recognize as criminally deviant - I have no time or patience for - and hearing it get passed off and dismissed and not followed up on or even addressed to me - I don't have the stomach for - and to hear this has been a problem for a long time and nobody's done anything about it....where am I to go?

Because I don't want to be here anymore.

I want to know my children are safe and know my efforts as a parent are upheld.

So for now - I am not sure what to do but I know I need to heal, there's a lot for me to learn from the gospel, and I know Heavenly Father isn't expecting me to just get run over and be fine with it - that's not what forgiveness or healing is about.  So for now still, it's going to be a while and be some time and I don't know what to do other than continue on.

Maybe this is just part of the lesson.

Maybe this isn't an accident and we're supposed to grow from this as well - or at least have the opportunity - even though it's not supposed to happen.   Maybe that's what makes the growth so much more critical in this place and setting.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Mount Zerin and the Centurion's Servant: Faith Outside the Box

When I was at the MTC one of the Seventies gave a talk to all of us missionaries, and raised his hands in the air and pronounced a blessing on all two-thousand-plus of us "as if I were laying my hands upon your heads individually."

There was a rushing wind in the MTC and there were the ministrations of heaven there.

This was not the first time I had seen the priesthood administer a blessing without the laying on of hands.

Although if we think about it - there are many ordinances in the temple where a priesthood holder doesn't specifically lay his hands upon you - I don't think hands and touching are the most critical elements in all cases.

Now, we know not to alter certain ordinances that are to be performed a certain way, not adding to or taking away from them.  The sacrament prayer should be perfectly said when administered, yet the sacrament itsself is not required to be bread or wine so long as it is done with an eye single to the glory of God.  The baptismal ordinance can't be altered in that it  requires complete immersion in water by a priesthood holder for example - not escaping those requirements.
He's actually giving a blessing of healing here.....across town.

All this being said - what is the "effective range" of the priesthood? How far is the priesthood good for before it stops working?

For example with the healing of the centurion's servant in the New Testament, the centurion's faith was so great, Christ was able to administer a priesthood blessing of healing to the servant from across town.

We also read of Mount Zerin being able to be commanded to be moved - nowhere were we told that hands had to be laid on the mountain for this to be fulfilled.  Apostles and prophets have dedicated entire continents and countries to the preaching of the gospel, and yet didn't traverse every single square inch of said areas in order for their words to be effective.  Even the scriptures tell us that, whether it be by the Lord's voice of the voice of his servants it is the same - it doesn't stipulate "but only if they are touching you". 

Now, the laying on of hands is certainly the preferred method for many priesthood ministrations, but my first ordination to a church leadership position in the military was done over the phone  because we were in a restricted area that higher church leadership couldn't get to, to perform the required ordinations.

The principle being that the priesthood, even when it is exercised, isn't really limited by anything except by our faith. I think the devil trembles to know that we have figured that we are more powerful and have more influence, and in more ways than we realize.

We hear that the priesthood isn't used to bless ourselves.

Wrong.  Not true.

Even Christ, when he was taken prisoner in the Garden of Gethsemane commented that he could summon legions of angels to him at that time, and we read of angels ministering to him at other times - this man held the priesthood and most certainly did use it and could use it to bless himself for the furtherance of the work and completion of his life's mission.  The Aaronic Priesthood holds the keys to the ministering of angels and we can summon them to ourselves or others as needed, required - and the ministering of angels can be to comfort us in times of tribulation, sorrow and other trials, just as the angels ministered to Christ while he completed the atonement - or as when he was taken in the garden, weren't summoned. 

Last general conference President Monson shared a story from World War Two where an Elder was stranded in the Pacific Ocean and was inspired to used the priesthood to command a ship be turned his way to save him.

The same ability we have to receive revelation while pronouncing priesthood blessings on others, we can use for ourselves to receive crystal clear, immediate revelation as well when needed - for comfort or guidance.  I will say from experience, practice is needed so that we may truly understand the nuance of this gift and the impressions and communications we may receive through it.  The spirit knows and understands things we don't, and it will tell us things we aren't aware of.  If we don't have the faith in the gift and haven't learned to understand what exactly is being whispered to us and how it operates, we are going to miss things. 

We have more power than we realize, it's just a matter of perfecting our skills and practicing with it so that we know what it, and we, are capable of doing.  I gave my father his last priesthood blessing just before his death, in prayer, from 400 miles away because I couldn't get to him by driving, and gave him a blessing that blessed him to inherit the celestial kingdom and I blessed him just before he slipped beyond the influences of mortality.

I think we need to have faith, faith outside the box. Meaning, have the faith to do and hope for things we haven't learned and thought of to build the Lord's kingdom and ourselves.

If we don't - then we really don't have faith, now do we?

Then how do we expect to be able to bless people with the priesthood?

Just a thought.