Thursday, April 28, 2005


Bad Things Happen

At BuyCom&ConSent there is piece on why bad things happen -- are they punishment or just life. I recalled a conference talk on the subject and found Elder M. Russell Ballard's "Answers to Life's Questions" from the Ensign of May 1995. Elder Ballard's fundamental statement is that the only satisfying answers to questions about suffering and unhappiness in the world "come from the comforting perspective of faith in our Heavenly Father and his eternal plan for our happiness."

Elder Ballard indicates that part of the test of mortality is our willingness to be obedient. "Obedience is essential to obtain exaltation and eternal life." He quotes King Benjamin that the obedient are "blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual." (Mosiah 2:41).

One of the most interesting things in the talk was this quotation from the Prophet Joseph Smith: "We cannot keep all the commandments without first knowing them, and we cannot expect to know all, or more than we know unless we comply with or keep those we have already received." This naturally raises the question for me, 'What commandments do we not know because we're not keeping the ones that we do know?' 'Are there yet higher laws we need to be living but are not because we're not living the law we do have?' The answer to the latter has to be 'yes' and would seem to be supported by early church history. Would this also explain why we keep hearing many of the same things from the general and local church authorities? We're not living what we have so we are not ready for more. More, as in additional scripture, higher laws...?

Back on the original subject: Elder Ballard says that Heavenly Father's plan does not provide for "blissful happiness at every step along our mortal journey. Life is filled with harsh realities..." He goes on to say, "God has put his plan in motion. It proceeds through natural laws that are, in fact, God's laws."

Elder Ballard also notes that agency is a crucial factor. "Often overlooked is the fact that choices have consequences; we forget also that agency offers the same privilege of choice to others. At tiem we will be affected adversely by the way other people chose to exercise their agency." That is such a downer. Sometimes I just hate other people's agency.

I don't think this talk ever really answers specifically the question over at BuyCom about an unfortunate happening being the result of a need to repent, or is it just life. Although, this talk tends to give support to the just life argument in my opinion. I've had the same question about bad things in my life: 'Am I being punished, tried, or life just tough?'

I really did like this statement from Elder Ballard: "Those who live according to Heavenly Father's eternal plan... will not destroy their spiritual sensitivity... Neither will they search for doctrinal loopholes to find reasons to challenge the ordained leadership of the Church nor tamper with the simple truths of the gospel." I really like this statement because I find a lot of this on the internet sites -- discussions critical of leadership decisions or questioning the leadership and doctrines as officially taught -- not much that is apostate, just murmuring. It reminds me of something I read from Nibley recently about the apostasy. He mentioned that the church in the 2nd century turned to erudition instead of inspiration.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


Great Things

My pointless and presumptuous commentary on
The Great Things Which God Has Revealed
by President Gordon B. Hinckley. (Again, my comments are scattered between the quoted and redacted material.)

"[T]he great things which God has revealed through Joseph the Prophet...distinguish us from all other churches..."

The doctrines and practices revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith set us apart as a church. Without these fundamental revelations, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints would be just another protestant denomination. These are the very differences to which the protestants point when they cry heresy and blasphemy. A successor to the Prophet Joseph Smith touches briefly upon these great revelations: The First Vision, the Book of Mormon, Priesthood Authority, Eternal Families, Innocence of Little Children, Salvation for the Dead and the Eternal Nature of Man, and Modern Revelation:

"The first of these, of course, is the manifestation of God Himself and His Beloved Son, the risen Lord Jesus Christ. This grand theophany is, in my judgment, the greatest such event since the birth, life, death, and Resurrection of our Lord in the meridian of time. "

"And upon the reality and truth of this vision rests the validity of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "

No first vision, no Church. Without divine instruction proclaiming that the true church had been lost from the earth, there would be no need for a restoration. Recent reading in Preach My Gospel notes that the bright pearl of the Restoration must be presented against the black velvet of the Apostasy.

"The Christian world accepts the Bible as the word of God.... The hand of the Lord was in its making. But it now does not stand alone. There is another witness of the significant and important truths found therein.
"Scripture declares that 'in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established' (2 Corinthians 13:1).
"The Book of Mormon has come forth by the gift and power of God. It speaks as a voice from the dust in testimony of the Son of God. It speaks of His birth, of His ministry, of His Crucifixion and Resurrection, and of His appearance to the righteous in the land Bountiful on the American continent.
It is a tangible thing that can be handled, that can be read, that can be tested. It carries within its covers a promise of its divine origin. Millions now have put it to the test and found it to be a true and sacred record."

"As the Bible is the testament of the Old World, the Book of Mormon is the testament of the New. They go hand in hand in declaration of Jesus as the Son of the Father.
"This sacred book, which came forth as a revelation of the Almighty, is indeed another testament of the divinity of our Lord.
"I would think that the whole Christian world would reach out and welcome it and embrace it as a vibrant testimony. It represents another great and basic contribution which came as a revelation to the Prophet. "

I am acquainted with a gentleman who has a degree in divinity and has studied Judaism. He says he has read the Book of Mormon part way through 2 Nephi. He says that he stopped there because that was all he had to read to know that it wasn't true. He bases this contention on the fact that the Book of Mormon contradicts his interpretation of the Bible and the way the death of Lehi is handled is inconsistent with Judaism. Somehow it does not seem to bother him that the New Testament contradicts Judaism's interpretation of the Torah, and that the various witnesses in the New Testament are often contradictory. It is unfortunate that so many refuse to consider the fact that their interpretation of scripture could be in error. These are those who would close the mouth of diety.

"Another is the restored priesthood. Priesthood is the authority to act in the name of God. That authority is the keystone of any religion. I have read another book recently. It deals with the Apostasy of the primitive Church. If the authority of that Church was lost, how was it to be replaced?
"Priesthood authority came from the only place it could come, and that is from heaven. It was bestowed under the hands of those who held it when the Savior walked the earth.
"First, there was John the Baptist, who conferred the Aaronic, or lesser priesthood. This was followed by a visitation of Peter, James, and John, Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, who conferred upon Joseph and Oliver Cowdery the Melchizedek Priesthood, which had been received by these Apostles under the hands of the Lord Himself when in life He said, 'And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven' (Matthew 16:19)."

President Gordon B. Hinckley, the only person on earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys states the nature of that authority and declares it "the keystone of any religion." The imagery is interesting. Any religion that does not have priesthood authority, has no keystone; it cannot stand and must collapse upon itself as its ordinances are without true force and effect. Many churches claim to have priesthood authority, but where did they get it? Joseph's Smith's claims are clear and unequivocal.

"Another great and singular revelation given to the Prophet was the plan for the eternal life of the family. The family is a creation of the Almighty. It represents the most sacred of all relationships. It represents the most serious of all undertakings. It is the fundamental organization of society.
Through the revelations of God to His Prophet came the doctrine and authority under which families are sealed together not only for this life but for all eternity."

I was listening to the radio today and the program host read quotes from radical feminists. The theme of the quotes was that so long as marriage existed, women would continue to be burdened with children; marriage must therefore be eliminated so that staying home and raising children would no longer be a viable choice for any woman. Indeed, the family is being stalked (see Pres. Monson's talk, Constant Truths).

"The innocence of little children is another revelation which God has given through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph. The general practice is the baptism of infants to take away the effects of what is described as the sin of Adam and Eve. Under the doctrine of the Restoration, baptism is for the remission of one's individual and personal sins. It becomes a covenant between God and man. It is performed at the age of accountability, when people are old enough to recognize right from wrong. It is by immersion, in symbolism of the death and burial of Jesus Christ and His coming forth in the Resurrection."

There seem to be two erroneous schools of thought when it comes to baptism: 1) Everyone, including innocent children must be baptized; 2) Baptism isn't important for anyone as long as they accept the Savior in their heart. This second option is a natural growth from the denial or lack of priesthood authority.

"I go on to mention another revealed truth. We are told that God is no respecter of persons, and yet, in no other church of which I am aware, is provision made for those beyond the veil of death to receive every blessing which is afforded the living. The great doctrine of salvation for the dead is unique to this Church. Men boast that they are "saved," and in the same breath admit that their forebears have not been and cannot be saved.

"Jesus's Atonement in behalf of all represents a great vicarious sacrifice. He set the pattern under which He became a proxy for all mankind. This pattern under which one man can act in behalf of another is carried forward in the ordinances of the house of the Lord. Here we serve in behalf of those who have died without a knowledge of the gospel. Theirs is the option to accept or reject the ordinance which is performed. They are placed on an equal footing with those who walk the earth. The dead are given the same opportunity as the living. Again, what a glorious and wonderful provision the Almighty has made through His revelation to His Prophet."

The principle is great and wonderful -- the great equalizer of generations and circumstances. I often wonder how anyone can be offended that their kindred dead have ordinances performed for them vicariously. If the ordinances are efficacious, then it is a great blessing to them. If the ordinances are without effect, then what does it matter and what is there to be offended about? The work for the dead is either meaningful or it is not.

"The eternal nature of man has been revealed. We are sons and daughters of God. God is the Father of our spirits. We lived before we came here. We had personality. We were born into this life under a divine plan. We are here to test our worthiness, acting in the agency which God has given to us. When we die we shall go on living. Our eternal life is comprised of three phases: one, our premortal existence; two, our mortal existence; and three, our postmortal existence. In death we die to this world and step through the veil into the sphere we are worthy to enter. This, again, is a unique, singular, and precious doctrine of this Church which has come through revelation."

"There is one more that I must mention. This is the principle of modern revelation. The article of faith which the Prophet wrote declares,
"We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God" (Articles of Faith 1:9.)
"A growing church, a church that is spreading across the earth in these complex times, needs constant revelation from the throne of heaven to guide it and move it forward. With prayer and anxious seeking of the will of the Lord, we testify that direction is received, that revelation comes, and that the Lord blesses His Church as it moves on its path of destiny."

I missed something here the first time or two that I read this. Here is a testimony of a modern day prophet holding all the keys of the priesthood on earth who testifies that constant revelation is received. The revelation need not be momentous manifestos and proclamations (thought it can be); it can be simple and may appear mundane from the outside.

"[Joseph Smith] was truly a seer. He was a revelator. He was a prophet of the living God who has spoken to his own and all future generations. To this I add my solemn witness of the divinity of his calling, of the virtue of his life, and of the sealing of his testimony with his death, in the sacred name of our Redeemer, even the Lord Jesus Christ, amen."

The sealing witness of one prophet seer and revelator upon another.

Friday, April 15, 2005


On Constant Truths

I thought I would start this blog by looking at some of the conference talks -- here is one grabbed at random. The talk has been edited down to its basic ideas and my thoughts are mixed in:

"Constant Truths for Changing Times" by Pres. Thomas S. Monson
"We cannot afford to be complacent. We live in perilous times.... We are acutely aware of the negative influences in our society that stalk traditional families...."

I'm impressed by Pres. Monson's use of the word "stalk" as it indicates a purposeful design against the traditional family. The wild animal that stalks its prey intends to destroy and/or devour the victim, the stalk has no trivial or innocent aim. Like the wine used to inebriate the Lamanites so that the Nephites could infiltrate and take the City of Gid, the destructive influences are "strong, having been prepared in [their] strength." (Alma 55:13)

"We, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, must stand up to the dangers which surround us and our families. To aid us in this determination, I offer several suggestions..."

A prophet, seer, and revelator offers counsel to resist the evil influences. We won't find anything new in this counsel. So why are we hearing it again? Because we're not faithfully following the admonitions already given and we're still vulnerable.

"I begin with family home evening. We cannot afford to neglect this heaven-inspired program. It can bring spiritual growth to each member of the family,... As President Gordon B. Hinckley and his predecessors have stated, "The home is the basis of a righteous life, and no other instrumentality can take its place nor fulfill its essential functions." ... [FHE teaches] gospel scholarship, faith, prayer, love, service, obedience, example, and kindness."

Amazing that such a simple program could bring such benefits. If it's so simple, why are we not faithfully arming our families in this way? Is it lack of faith? Is it lack of character? Is it just too hard? (See 1 Nephi 3:5) Or is it too simple? (See 1 Nephi 17:41)

"Next, I address the subject of debt... It is essential for us to live within our means."

Debt, one of the precursors to the visit to the divorce lawyer. Debt attacks families--if it doesn't drive them to divorce--it puts them in bondage and reduces their ability to serve and consecrate to the Lord and building Zion.

"I would say to each mother, each father-be a good listener... And to you children, talk to your mother and to your father."

Could I get him to shout this in my oldest daughter's ear? Pres. Monson made a similar statement in his address at the Womens' Conference. My daughter thinks any questioning of her whereabouts and activities is an interrogation designed at invading her privacy and further ruining her life. (She really is good, but after she turned 13 (she's 16 now) her meaningful communications have significantly declined). Of course, all my children and my wife would point out that I'm not a good listener (in their opinion).

"Mothers, share household duties. It is often easier to do everything yourself than to persuade your children to help, but it is so essential for them to learn the importance of doing their share.
"Fathers, I would counsel you to demonstrate love and kindness to your wife. Be patient with your children. Don't indulge them to excess, for they must learn to make their own way in the world.
"Parents, help your children set goals concerning school and careers. Help your sons learn manners and respect for women and children."

How often I have seen remarkably good people with children that are utterly worthless for service, taking care of themselves, or making and keeping commitments. The parents provide all and do everything without requiring sacrifice and effort on the part of the children as well. There are great people who just don't see that they are building serious character flaws into their children -- just like the old wedge left in the tree.

"Parents, live your lives in such a way that your children will find you an example worthy of emulation... I admonish all families: search out your heritage. It is important to know, as far as possible, those who came before us. We discover something about ourselves when we learn about our ancestors.
"I emphasize how essential is the work we do in the temples of the Lord for our kindred dead.
Remember that ofttimes the wisdom of God appears as foolishness to men, but the greatest single lesson we can learn in mortality is that when God speaks and a man obeys, that man will always be right."

Family History and Temple work -- turning the hearts of the children to the fathers and vice versa -- again emphasising the eternal importance of the family.

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