Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Ten Commandments of Mercy and Peace

Many have criticized the Ten Commandments because the very first commandment is that you don't get to pick your own god.

But they are missing a few things in their criticisms.

The very first thing the Lord says in the first commandment is that it was he who delivered them from their masters in Egypt - i.e. "I helped you escape and you're no longer slaves because of me."

6 I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

7 Thou shalt have none other gods before me. (Deuteronomy 5). 

If something brings you out with such signs and wonders, even parting the ocean so you can walk on dry ground and then buries an army behind you so you can be safe, why would you want another God?   Seems like a good thing. 

He did something they couldn't ever do or even repay.  And all he asks is that they remember him and know that he's the one who did it?  

Seems fair to me.  Sensible even.  Why not? 

And then critics will take aim at the second commandment not to make statues of beasts etc. to worship.  It's not very openminded and we have statues all over the place today! What's the harm? (Um, also look around at the issues our society has today we got all sorts of things wrong today).

But again they miss that these people weren't delivered by golden calves or stone heads, there's no wisdom there and no life eternally or otherwise, and these people even ended up worshipping a golden calf while Moses was up speaking to the Lord and descended into an orgiastic frenzy in his absence.

Graven images were apparently a grave temptation for them that led to all sorts of spiritual destruction and eventually the bondage like they had in Egypt. Nowadays our gods have taken on more of an electronic or mechanical form, but still the commandment remains. 

Again, the second commandment is one of protection and keeps people focused on the God who gave them life. 

The third commandment to not take the Lord's name in vain - vanity - pride - priestcrafts - also protected against returning to the idolatry of Egypt, complete with human sacrifices. 

Yet another commandment of  mercy. 

The fourth is to remember our creation.  A weekly birthday of sorts.  The creation of the world and all we could not do in creating us but that the Lord did, and a day of rest.  

Yet another commandment of mercy. 

And the remaining commandments all have to do with how we treat our fellow man, creating a society of felicity and peace: honoring your parents, not murdering, not stealing, not adulterating, not lying, not coveting....all leading to peace one with another.

Such conduct was never had among any of the kingdoms the Israelites overthrew or ever were delivered from.   Such a peaceful society was never had. 

Even the sacrifices of the law were only to be animals to turn their minds and hearts to be aware of the only human sacrifice to ever be commanded of God and that He Himself would perform. 

The God of the Old Testament wasn't vengeful, as was pointed out in an earlier post.  He was working to keep them from being led away right back to where and what they had just come from with human sacrifice and slavery and magic by people who had stood in his presence and seen his miracles like never before. 

Anyways, just musing about the Ten Commandments as I read my scriptures today.

Monday, June 19, 2017

It Is Better That One Man Should Perish...

As I've read the Old Testament, I've wondered why the Lord dealt so...harshly....with so many.

Gathering sticks on the Sabbath?


Marrying outside of Israel?


Not giving an offering right in the temple?


Demanding the priesthood?

Eaten by bears.  Swallowed up in an earthquake.  (death).

So, I went a searching through the scriptures to find out the reasons why God seemed so much more harsh back then.

A few things are different then from us now.

One, these people were directly blessed by the God Jehovah and there was no denying it.  From the mannah from heaven, to walking across the Red Sea, to the consumption of the sacrifices on the altar in the tabernacle, to the pillar of fire and cloud on the Ark of the Covenant....these people were living directly in the presence of God and had witnesses beyond anything most of us have seen today and there was no doubt their God and their Prophet were what and who they said they were.

All this in mind, these people who did these things were in open rebellion right in the sight of the Lord and in front of an entire nation the Lord was trying to save and deliver.

What would happen if they were permitted to persist in rebellion right in front of everyone this way?

Well...they would have set themselves above the God of Israel, and would destroy the faith not just of the people there, but of the trillions of descendants who came and are yet to come through the house of Israel. 

Nephi and Lehi would never have happened as a nation would have self-destructed in faithlesness well before them because of open rebellion.

Nephi said it best when he wrote what the spirit said to him: 
12 And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands;

13 Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief. (1 Nephi 4). 

Well...I do know this.  The Lord would rather people keep his commandments and inherit eternal life.  But if you're going to engage in a rebellion that's basically on the scale of Lucifer in the pre-mortal war, and do it down here in the midst of a nation that walks in the presence of God and knows He is, or you can't figure it out after all that...well, I might summarize Nephi's words: maybe you need to be eliminated. 

Because while the Lord encourages us to leave the ninety-and-nine to find the one, if one will destroy the ninety-and-nine, the Lord can't very well justify keeping the one around.  He would be a poor steward to leave them around to set up and destroy others with such light, especially given what havoc it would wreak over millenia.

But as death is but a transition from mortal to immortal, the necessity and mercifulness of ending life to save other lives...? From spiritual death?....absolutely. 

And yet there's a bit of a spiritual parallel there alongside the atonement with the guilty dead, whose blood was shed, so that others might live and not suffer what they were going to if they could not be redeemed

Just musing.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Womanly Influence in the Restorations

We tend to think of the current dispensation to be the restoration.  But in fact, there have been seven (major) restorations, or dispensations. 

Joseph Smith

I think we tend to think of the priesthood, naturally, leading these dispensations - perhaps exclusively.   But I've found at least two places where women played a role in establishing the laws of the restoration in which they lived. 

The first that I've read of was the daughters of Zelophehad realized that their father's inheritance had no sons to pass their father's lands on to.  (Numbers 27).  But they inquired of the prophet asking for land to live on that they might keep his inheritance, and he came back and reported that the Lord said they were correct.  They were to be given their inheritance as if they were sons, and the laws of inheritances of lands among family members in the patriarchal order - an entire tenet of the Law of Moses - was given because of their inquiry.

The second that comes to mind is Emma Smith's complaint to her husband, the prophet, about the men spitting tobacco on the floor of the places they were gathered together, and the subsequent revelation that became Doctrine and Covenants section 89, now a major part of Mormonism known as the Word of Wisdom.

I think we'd be overlooking Eve in her choice to bring about the fall of man, and then persuading her husband, the prophet, who decided to fall that men might be, as another womanly influence (none of us would even be here without those events). 

At any rate.  Given the amount of records that have been kept during the dispensations, the records we have are very scant, but I just found it interesting that without woman's influence and inquiry in the gospel, there is much we wouldn't have - and some we couldn't have - were it not for their influence.  Were it not for women none of us would even be alive. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Book of Mormon, The Book of Numbers, and the -Ites.

As a Latter Day Saint, we are all familiar with the Nephites, Lamanites, Jaredites, Lemuelites, Mulekites, Jacobites, Ishmaelites, and so on, from the Book of Mormon. 

I've never thought anything of the suffix "ites".  That's what I've always known since I converted!  I've never thought anything of it.

In fact, "ites" as an appendage, or suffix, to a name to denote separation from others by lineage or ideology is most apparent (to me) in 4th Nephi:  17 There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God. (4th Nephi 1).

Great!  We got it.  Ites.  Book of Mormon thing to do with names and people and families. 


I did not know, that the -ites suffix was used in the Old Testament long before Nephi ever wrote about it.  For example, while taking a census - or numbering (hence the Book of Numbers) -  of the Tribes of Israel, we read a sample here of this suffix being used:

29 Of the sons of Manasseh: of Machir, the family of the Machirites: and Machir begat Gilead: of Gilead come the family of the Gileadites.
30 These are the sons of Gilead: of Jeezer, the family of the Jeezerites: of Helek, the family of the Helekites:
31 And of Asriel, the family of the Asrielites: and of Shechem, the family of the Shechemites:
32 And of Shemida, the family of the Shemidaites: and of Hepher, the family of the Hepherites. (Numbers 26). 

At any rate, it's a small thing - but the -ites suffix usage is so common in Mormondom that I'm not sure I can imagine us even conversing about the Book of Mormon colloquially without it.

But once again, I find a detail, that I'm not sure some fourteen year old hoaxer with a limited education could have thought to continue from one book (the Old Testament) to another Testament if he was simply making it up. 

Given that Lehi was from the Old Testament times when these suffixes were still in use, and they brought the Law of Moses (including the Book of Numbers) with them, and they patterned much after what their forebears did, I would be shocked if they didn't use them among themselves.

And once again, a minor detail and ever so complete consistency finds its way throughout the testaments witnessing again that either Joseph Smith was one lucky fraud to get this many details correct (he wasn't) or he Truly was what and who he said he was - the prophet of God in these last days (he was). 

And once again, scripture study again shows me that I've seen with my eyes that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, because nobody else in 2,000+ years has been able to pull off a work this consistent and get all these details that two-millenia plus of apostasy have missed. 

The Book of Mormon is true.  And another detail from the Book of Numbers, in the Old Testament of the Bible, again indicates and points to and "proves" this.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Time to Go Home....Now!

In the children's story "My Turn on Earth" a little girl named Barbara is experiencing mortality - her turn on earth.

At one point in the story, just as she's figuring everything out...suddenly it's time to go home. At that time hears a voice calling her from somewhere telling her it's time to go home.

She says "...I am home."

The voice calls again, when she says "...oh....that home...." and then muses somewhat desperately, "I don't want to go now...do I have to?  I'm not ready!  My turn can't be over yet!"

Reflections on a life ending - a story finished at the deciding of our creator are thought out - "there are things I must do, there are still some things left that I must say..."  and finally she is told "ready or not" it's time to come home. 

As I sat in Gospel Principles today listening to my wife teach, my Elder's Quorum President pointed me out in the room through the window, and the Stake Presidency then leaned in and asked to see me.

I was taken into a room and sat down.

"We are releasing you as First Counselor in the Elder's Quorum Presidency.  Thank you for your service.  We will release you with a vote of thanks today."

My turn was over.

Just like that.

No warning, no preparation...I had no say in what happened next...it wasn't my work.  The Creator and Director of our Spirits decided I was to be released and like that....it was done. 

The release hit me like a ton of bricks and I actually found my eyes watering.

There was so much I finally felt like I could do that I had always found myself struggling with my calling, never quite feeling adequate.  A final inward reach and I was finally ready to run with this calling, and I stood on the starting blocks this morning, ready to throw myself into a Stake Re-Alignment, to finally magnify my calling and be able and have the energy to....

...the starting blocks were pulled out from behind me...

The race was over.  And I never even got to run with it ever and show father my best with life
circumstances beyond my control and an exhausting family situation.

As I reflected on my release and felt overwhelming frustration at never having truly felt like I had actually magnified my calling, the realization that life will one day end just as suddenly hit me even harder.

Perhaps I will enjoy a "sunset" in life, watching the sun go down on my life and others going on ahead of me in my place and I may get the sense that things are wrapping up and drawing to a close.

Perhaps it will end suddenly and without warning - that happens every day all around us, and for many the sun sets faster than we want to or are ready for.

Either way, when it happens, angels then take us and we are taken before Father, so to speak, and it will be time to make an account of our life at that point.

There won't be any more 'do overs'.

No more 'second chances'.

No more 'what I really meant to say was....'.

It will be time to say "bring your book of life with you, you're done editing...let's see what you got...crack your life books open, we're going over them."

Suddenly as I reflected on all the projects around me in life that I've put a bit of a hold on, things that need to be said that I put off until tomorrow, better relationships with my children who are growing every single day that I just didn't have time for in the moment, accomplishments and achievements that can only be done in youth or with a younger body than I will someday have suddenly felt like they were slipping away.

I became startlingly aware of my own mortality.

I felt so shocked...I felt so powerless.  I don't get to decide when it ends.

I told father it had taken everything I had to get to this point and I never even got to run the way I know I can - the way I wanted to.  

And now it was over.

Reflections on priesthood blessings that had told me that callings were "stepping stones" and that I was to magnify them to the best of my ability hit me.  Had I mis-stepped? Had I missed a stone?  Had I slipped and fallen?

I actually had to leave church to reflect on all that came to me with this release and missed the rest of church.  And what hit me was when I told Father "it has taken me everything I have to get here" and I knew I couldn't have given more than I had...there wasn't anything left up until now.  And as I sat, shocked, wondering what to do with my time, my spiritual progression, the Elder's Quorum President approached me as I loaded family into the car to leave and told me, "I'm going to put you back to work, I need teachers."

I was told with the stake re-alignment he had no prior notice and just found out I was being released the night before, and the directions came from much higher up to integrate the new ward. 

But you always wonder why you're being released.  At least I do. And I wonder, as the hymn says, "Have I done any good"?

But at the thought of teaching again...I've actually held the calling of teaching the priesthood continuously for 9 years, either presiding and teaching, or as a teacher.

But my heart leapt to know that I got to serve again.

And just as my turn was over, a new turn had begun.

And so it will continue, in one form or another....until it's time to go home for good.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

An Optional Ordinance (for Non-Members)

Ever read about an ordinance that non-members are able to participate in just the same as members of the church?  Or that's optional?

Check this out:

14 And if a stranger shall sojourn among you, and will keep the passover unto the Lord; according to the ordinance of the passover, and according to the manner thereof, so shall he do: ye shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger and for him that was born in the land. (Numbers 9).

Well....now you have.

As I understand it though, the Passover feast was one of remembrance, and not a covenant or commandments or obligations of an eternal sort, though it was commanded to be kept in remembrance. 

Interesting here even the Lord leaves it up to those who want to participate, it isn't mandated.

Yet on the Sabbath, the stranger in your gates is to keep the commandments in your home, as well:
8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. Exodus 20.

So why are you free to join the passover, but you are required to keep the sabbath if you are a stranger in the gates?

Well....even any Egyptian who kept the Passover would have been spared the death that came at the time of Israel's deliverance.  It was up to anyone as to whether or not they wished to acknowledge the Lord with that ordinance / feast - and they were blessed for doing so as a testament to their faithfulness - kind of a time to say "Lord, I believe" and be spared.  There is a time when all those who confess the Lord Jesus with their mouth shall be spared...so it was with the Passover, but it was your choice. 

Whereas  the sabbath, you as a member of the church are under covenant.  And a stranger within your gates not keeping it could easily lead you, or be used by you, to not keep the sabbath - i.e. I'll have you plow my field since I can't, thereby I get the plowed field and I get the reward of faithfulness, I get the blessing of keeping the commandments AND breaking them at the same time! 

No...that simply won't do.

At any rate, as I continue to work through the Old Testament (the "New Testament" is about 2,000 years old, so I'm not sure how "new" it is) I keep finding where our religion today and the ancient one given are connected.  There's more to this, I know, but for now, this suffices. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Latter Day Levitical Learnings

I keep reading Leviticus, which as you know, everyone quotes all the time while bearing testimonies and it's the book everyone inserts into their prayers in the church (not really).

Though the book of Leviticus doesn't seem like it applies to Christians or Latter Day Saints specifically, I've actually found a lot in here that I draw a lot of strength from.  I get to see the completeness of the law and the perfection of the ordinances that the Lord put forth. What has seemed like some mysterious, irrelevant, ancient, forgotten part of the law, instead is coming alive to me.  I get to see the beauty that my Jewish Brethren and Sisters revere today in the same God who will reclaim them to us as well.

We have ordinances today in the temple that are different than these ones put forth in the Book of Leviticus.  We don't read about the endowment ordinances in the temple though - why?  Well....if they are as a sacred then as they are now - heck you weren't even to say the Lord's name anciently - then I wouldn't expect the endowment to be written in the standard works.  Nevertheless we see parts of the endowment and similar truths in religions around the world - a testament to the existence of these ordinances anciently and the apostasies and scatterings that occurred anciently.

But - if you've attended the temple at all in its ordinances and how they are required to be perfect and correct - then you may be able to appreciate the completeness of the ordinances in Leviticus. 

That and I *LOVE* my Savior - though I am imperfect - and I get to read a law that I know He Himself personally wrote, and then he kept. 

In Leviticus I find I understand more of what He was living in His liftime, why He did some of the things He did - it just rounds out my world and testimony so much more. 

We are told the Law was "dead" and hear it over and over again through the Book of Mormon and that perfection didn't come by it.   Yet a close look at the ordinances therein we can see a perfection that only could come from God himself.  

A close look at today's ordinances and we will see the same perfection in them both, indicating the same God wrote them both, and see a correlation between both the Mosaic ordinances and today's all sending the same message: God has atoned for us and we can be washed clean and we can become like him and we all have to submit to the same laws - including the Lord.

In Leviticus we read:

23 And Aaron shall come into the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall put off the linen garments, which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there:
24 And he shall wash his flesh with water in the holy place, and put on his garments, and come forth, and offer his burnt offering, and the burnt offering of the people, and make an atonement for himself, and for the people. (Leviticus 16). 

A few things jump out at me here: 

One is that he's not wearing the ceremonial garments when he's presenting himself to make an atonement for everyone - the act of being washed is one that is a bit more humbling in an acknowledgement that we aren't worthy before the Lord so I wouldn't expect us to be wearing our finest clothes during the ordinance but rather something more humble as is described here. 

Further - the priest wasn't exempt from an atonement being made for himself - it was to be offered for him and for the people.  It acknowledges that he too was imperfect and in need of atonement - not a detail is missed yet here. 

We know from the scriptures that the Priest or Prophet is to be to the people as the Lord is - to them
he stands in the place of God (under the Lord's direction). 

So why would the priest need to be cleansed from his sins?  

Well...go further....why did Christ need to be baptized?  He didn't. Not to wash away sin, anyways. Yet he said that it was needed to fulfill all righteousness.  And here, just as the priest in the tabernacle went to make an atonement for himself, we see the Savior also participating in the same ordinances that are expected to make us clean.   The Lord was subject to the Law as well, and set up that symbolism in the tabernacle (and later, the temples) to represent this as well.  We are all subject to the Father. 

And as Christ said, 19 ... Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. (John 5)

The father set the example for Christ, who set the example for us, who gave us ordinances to bring these things before us that we might learn to be like him - both in the temples anciently as well as today.  They are the same God who gave them both, and those who kept those ancient laws are as whole as we are by keeping the modern ones - and Christ keeps and kept them as well.