I was asked about a list of “commandments” to keep. The person was sincerely trying to keep the commandments, but lacked a comprehensive list of them.
It is not possible to list all commandments. In one sense there are only two: Love God. Love you fellow man. All others are extensions of those.
If you love God you will do what He asks of you. Whenever something comes to your attention He would have you do, you do it. For example, Christ was baptized and said to “Follow Him.” So because of your love of God, you follow Him.
But Christ also showed repeatedly, that the second commandment was greater than the rules. Keeping the Sabbath day holy, for example, was subordinate to loving and freeing His fellow man. He freed men from sin on the Sabbath by forgiving sins. He freed them from physical injury or disease by healing on the Sabbath. Both were considered work, and therefore an offense to the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy.
Your individual path back to God will begin with following the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At some point, however, you will find that individual service and obedience to God’s will for you will create disharmony between you and others. Can’t be avoided. If you’re following Christ, you will find the same things He found. Helping someone in need will take you away from Church meetings on occasion. You can’t make a list and keep it, because as soon as you do the list will interfere with loving God and loving your fellow man.
So the whole matter can be reduced to this: Follow Christ, receive the ordinances, accept the Holy Ghost, who will teach you all things you must do. Any list beyond that will inevitably result in conflicts and contradictions.
The idea of being “one” (as Christ put it in His great Intercessory Prayer in John 17: 20-23
) has been oftentimes misunderstood and the source of abuse. There should be nothing compulsory about this process. “Oneness” is a byproduct, and not an end. When we seek it as an end, then we have missed the opportunity to achieve it.
Believing “oneness” is achieved by making people think alike, look alike, be alike, or behave alike is so wrongheaded as to be Satanic. The ideal expressed by Christ as He prayed to the Father was that we should each attempt, in our limited capacities, to be more like Christ. The closer we approach that ideal, the more we become “one” as a byproduct. Merely giving a list of behavior as the way to “oneness” is not only foolish, but it is impossible. It must come from within, and cannot come from without.
Paul’s 14th Chapter of Romans
is actually the only way in which “oneness” can be attained. Let everyone decide what they believe will make them closer to Christ, and allow them the freedom to follow that path. Let all others refrain from judging the behavior of others. Whether they “eateth herbs” or “eateth meat” let each be free to do what they believe to be right before God. “Judge not him that eateth: for God hath received him.” Let everyone do what in their own heart they believe is right before God, because God will respect anything done on His behalf. And let everyone else refrain from judging these honest efforts, but bear with one another.
This will give rise to widely diverse behavior. but will result in an absolute uniformity of intent. Everyone should be free to do what they believe God is asking them to do. And everyone should also respect the honest efforts of others.
Over time, perhaps over generations, behavior will grow closer as a result of the purity of the underlying intent. Not because someone is compelling uniformity, but because light and truth will eventually bring harmony.
Being “one” just as building Zion cannot be a goal in itself. It is always a byproduct of the kind of people which changed hearts produce.
In a private conversation with someone a few years ago he commented that he wished the definition of “Mormonism” would be changed. He thought that anyone who was willing to accept the ordinances of the Church ought to be regarded as being Mormon, no matter what else they may differ on. I’ve thought about his comment for years now. I’m inclined to see a great deal of wisdom in that idea. I’ve grown to see that those comments echo the earlier writings of the Apostle Paul.
Elder Oaks spoke to law and divinity students at Harvard this week. The talk was recorded and may be broadcast between General Conference sessions. He spoke for about 45 minutes then took questions. Among the comments he made was that neither the Church nor Evangelicals would identify Mormons as Evangelicals. He also noted the hostility of higher education to religious values and beliefs, despite the widespread religious convictions of Americans.
I have a friend in Tennessee who emailed me this week about a Latter-day Saint congregation he visited a few Sunday’s ago. The congregation was of mixed races, and the meetings were louder, more animated and lively than the “typical” ward. He quite enjoyed it. His description of the visit made me long for the mission field again. In the mission field there are widely divergent congregations. But the Wasatch Front is far different in texture and tone than anywhere else. I think there are people here who believe a stoic face is required to be reverent.
My impression of the mortal Lord is that He was gregarious, lively, filled with life, and given to smiling often. He surely was challenged by serious men involved in conspiracies to have Him killed, and for them His responses were serious. But He was filled with life, and love and humor. His many analogies drew from the common man’s experience to teach with simplicity the deepest of ideas. I think He would have fit into the Tennessee ward my friend told me about.
I think when the scriptures note “He wept” it was because His normal demeanor was so upbeat, so positive and hope-filled that weeping stood out by contrast.
I’ve only sensed that I genuinely offended Him once. All other errors and mistakes have merely “bemused” Him, even though I have felt terrible from my end. He is a patient Teacher. Who knows exactly when you are ready and then how best to teach.
I’ve never won an argument with the Lord.
Here’s a troubling thought to ponder: The Telestrial are those who have received and bear testimony of their faith in prophets, such as Paul, John, Moses, Elias, Isaiah, Enoch, and Joseph Smith, but who “received not the gospel, neither the testimony of Jesus.” (See D&C 76: 98-102.)
Security therefore lies not in following men, even men identified in the verses who are true prophets, but only in following Christ and receiving His Gospel and testimony. What an absolutely uniform, individual obligation the Gospel imposes upon everyone.
The question has come up about how the Lamanites could receive the baptism of fire and “know it not” when it happened. Whole books have been written on this subject and I can’t do it justice in a blog. So I won’t try. I’ll make a brief comment:
The alternatives are:
1. They knew something happened, but didn’t know what it was or what it should be called.
2. They didn’t realize something had happened at all.
If the reason is 1, then the result is un-troubling because without a vocabulary to label the event it is easy to to understand whey they “know it not.”
Much more troubling is reason 2. What if the baptism of fire is an event so subtle it could escape detection? And if that is the case, then how is one to know when or if they have experienced it?
Some writers have made the baptism of fire such a remarkable event that it connotes salvation, even exaltation itself. For those who accept that definition of the event, then to reduce it to an undetectable occurrence seems to somehow diminish it.
Joseph described the effects of the Holy Ghost on a Gentile (purges the blood and remakes them into an Israelite), and on a descendant of Israel (pure intelligence). [I’m not going to give the cite from the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, because I don’t have a copy with me while I’m writing this. So you look it up.] Both effects Joseph describes could be felt in a minimal way. Neither would require it to be dramatic.
“Fire” is a description of quickening, purging sin, and receiving the love of God. [Beloved Bridegroom gives a great explanation of fire as a symbol of the love of God.] If you are living in conformity with such light as you have been given, receiving this kind of “fire” would not necessarily be physically detectable. The real place where it would begin to show would be as a person prays, and then begins to receive answers, or “pure intelligence” as Joseph put it. “A sudden flow of ideas,” which the recipient knows is beyond their capacity to think of or accomplish, would be another way in which the recipient would recognize its presence.
I think it is altogether possible for either explanation to be true. No matter which explanation, I don’t believe it diminishes in any way the importance of this baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. It is, in my view, the event marking the beginning of the process by which someone becomes ultimately a new creature. It is not the end of the journey. I would use other words to describe that.
The site we use for this blog has the unfortunate label of “Followers” for those who read the blog, or receive regular updates on new posts. The website comment goddess who works to manage this has attempted to change the name to “Readers” but can only do that within the fields open to be changed.
Now I realize those who follow this are “Readers” and only “followers” in the sense that they receive update notices. I acknowledge the insult given you by the Google label.
As an aside, if you really are a “Follower” then let me make one thing clear: You don’t want to follow me. You should be a follower of Christ
. He can really do something for you. I cannot.
That having been said, now let’s go on being bemused at Google’s unfortunate choice of monikers for those who read a blog.
I’m really appreciative of the ability this forum has to reduce the need for repetition with many people. I hope it is convenient for readers, too.
Teaching is marred by the ineptitude of teachers. It does not matter how complex a subject being taught is, a good teacher will make is both simple and enjoyable to learn. When a subject becomes difficult to understand, more often than not it is because the teacher does not understand the subject well enough to make it simple.
For the Gospel, teaching is a matter of increasing light in the one learning. To do that the student must learn how to improve their obedience to true principles. Only someone’s obedience to truth will lead them to greater truth. The teacher’s obedience cannot and does not benefit the student of the gospel if the student is unwilling to receive greater light and truth by obedience.
The necessary obedience is not obedience to a man, or men, or a set of rules devised by men. It is not even obedience to a rigid set of commandments. Obedience and fidelity must be directed to the Lord. No matter how well someone may teach for doctrine the commandments of men, those who hear will never gain more than a form of godliness, without any power.
We all must progress in the same way Christ did. He grew from grace to grace, until as last He was called the Son of God. He had the fullness of grace and truth. Read John’s testimony again found in the beginning of D&C 93
. Pay attention to the first verse of Section 93, because it is the summary of what John’s testimony will include.
The teachings are real. Increasing light is real. But each must gain it in the very same way as Christ and all those who have followed Him gained it.
A good teacher will always work himself out of a job by teaching how to find light without him. A bad teacher will call attention to himself, and try to make others dependent upon him. The worst teachers are those who want to control those who will listen to them and to dictate what they do, what they think, and how they must follow. Christ, and the light He brings, liberates, making each person an agent for themselves. Satan’s plan is to put us into bondage, controlling us and making us fear.