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Isaiah 53:1

Isaiah 53: 1 begins with the questions:
Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
These two questions remain as timely today as they were when asked 750 years before Christ’s birth.  As to the first question:
The report is Isaiah’s testimony of the coming Messiah.
It is plural, although delivered by a lone prophet, because God Himself authorized the message to be delivered.  Therefore it is not “my” but rather “our” report.
The question concerns the audience’s “belief” in the report, because it contradicts the ideas held by them.  It will tell them something remarkably different from what they though to be true.

As to the second question:

“The arm of the Lord” is a symbol of His strength or might.
To have the strength of the Lord revealed to someone is to have them come into knowledge of Him and His ways.

His ways are not what men presume they are.  They are directed to much higher, much holier ends.  The strength of the Lord as it will unfold in the chapter which follows is based upon the suffering He undertook for us.

The chapter that follows this opening verse is framed in the past tense.  This is called the “prophetic perfect” tense.  To the prophet, the events have been seen. To him, they are in the past. Therefore, future events are framed as if they already occurred.  Prophets to whom things are shown will often frame their message in the past tense, even though they speak of things in the future.  You find it throughout prophecy.

Be careful what you ask for

It was weird, really.  This guy went to visit with God in His House, but when he got there he couldn’t see Him.  I mean he couldn’t “see” Him.  God was there.  They both were there.  But God, as it turned out, the guy was unable to detect His presence.
He went to the optometrist and got his vision checked.  Everything worked.  So he was left to wonder why it was he couldn’t see God.
Some study later he concluded that although God was made of matter (Luke 24: 39), He must be more refined or pure, and therefore not detectable by normal eyesight.  (D&C 131: 7.)  Only “purer” eyes could see him.  So he used Visine, returned to see Him, and still no luck.
Well, he decided to take up the matter in prayer and offered this supplication to the Almighty:  “I’m beginning to doubt your love for me.  Tell you what, you show yourself to me and I’ll know you love me.  But it you stay outside my field of vision then I know you’re avoiding me and therefore don’t love me.”  God loves everyone, see.  And so the request was framed in a way to force God to make Himself visible.  The man thought himself clever.
Well, God decided to take the fellow up on the request, as He always does.  First the man’s house burned down, then his business failed, then he got cancer.  As he was in the hospital his family abandoned him, and his friends all thought he was cursed by God, and stayed away.  So he waited out the final days of his mortality alone, in pain, and without possessions.  
As a charity case the hospital treated him with some neglect, giving him many hours to suffer alone in his bed.  Suffering brought about meditation and prayer.
It was during the last few hours of his life, as he lay fevered and in pain, that his burdens overwhelmed him and he sought in desperate humility for relief from God.  His prayer was:  “Oh Lord, I know I have done less than I should have with the things I have been given.  I long to part this life clean of my failings.  Can you forgive me, a wretched sinner, for my many failings?”  He expected little.  Hoping only to salve his conscious by this prayer.
The Lord, who had been in the room for days, suddenly came into view.  Startled by this appearance, the man asked: “Is it you, Lord?”
“Yes” came the reply.
“Can you forgive me?”
“Oh, I’ve done that long ago.  Yes, you are certainly forgiven.  I’m here for you to see I love you.  You asked for that in your prayer a year ago and I’ve been working so that your eyes could become more refined.  Now, at last they are.”
Now the man could see what great love the Lord truly had for him.  For in the extremity of his dying hour, he had a companion to comfort him.
He died in joy.  The nurse thought it was the morphine.

What lack I yet?

I was asked this question:
 
“Do you know with surety IN ADVANCE of doing some incredibly hard sacrifice that it is the Lord asking it of you, or do you come to know that it is His will AS you do it?”
 
My response:
You will know with absolute certainty that the request came from the Lord.
 
The request will be difficult, or a sacrifice.
HOWEVER, whether the person recognizes at the moment or only in hindsight that it was required for them to develop the faith necessary for redemption is not universal.  Some know at the time, some only know in hindsight.  What is absolutely universal is that when the test has been passed, the faith exists.  When it does, it will be enough for redemption and the promise of eternal life.
Joseph knew he had the promise of eternal life (as recorded in D&C 132: 49) before he went to Carthage to die.  He knew he was going to die.  Death was not his great challenge, but the physical ratification of the faith which already existed in him.  The earlier trials had been enough to prove him and put that power within him.  His death was an extension of existing faith and knowledge.

The order of things is established and can be known.  The details of how it unfolds in individual lives will be specific to the individual.  Whether the person realizes the final great test is underway or not will depend on the person.  I did not.  I only came to realize in hindsight what was underway.

 
One of the parables in Ten Parables shows how the heavens can interact with man, but man be unaware of the full agenda conducted.  I have referred to that tenth parable several times. By the way, that parable is NOT a description of the test required to obtain the faith for redemption.  It is just a parable about how heaven works to provide missing virtue or grace to a life that is lacking something, but still worthy of preservation.

Charge to Twelve

This is really a “comment” in response to a question belonging to the earlier post on Elder Packer’s Testimony.  However, it was too long to put in there as a reply comment, so will be put up here as a blog entry.  It is an interruption.  Sorry.  There is a fellow asking for it, and I delayed for so long that I feel I owe him a response.  I am really writing this to him.

Taken from Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power.  (A good book by Quinn.  He’s written some bad ones, but this is not one of them.  I think he was stinging from criticism and in this book proved he was still a good historian.)

“In 1835 Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey emphasized to the newly organized Quorum of the Twelve Apostles that their calling was charismatic, evangelical and also institutional.  Of the three, the charismatic definition of the apostleship was the earliest, going back to 1829.  Cowdrey told the new apostles: ‘It is necessary that you receive a testimony from heaven for yourselves; so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon, and that you have seen the face of God.’  Then he continued: ‘That is more than the testimony of an angel … Never cease striving until you have seen God, face to face.’  Cowdrey acknowledged that most of the new apostles had depended on visions of others for their faith and suggested that some might even be skeptical of visions.  Thus it was not necessary to see Jesus to be chosen as an apostle.  However, once ordained each man had a lifelong obligation to seek this charismatic experience: a vision of deity.  Some apostles from 1835 onward reported having had such visions before their ordination.  Apostles in the nineteenth century referred publicly to their visionary witness.

“… some LDS apostles, including Orson Pratt and Heber J. Grant, felt inadequate because they had not had such encounters.

“In the twentieth century, charismatic apostleship changed in several ways.  First, the ‘charge’ at ordination no longer obligated apostles to seek visions.  Second, the Presidency and apostles began down-playing the importance of these experiences.  Third, apostles began speaking of a non-visionary ‘special witness of Christ’ by the Holy Ghost in terms which allowed listeners to conclude that the apostles referred to an actual appearance of deity.  Fourth, apostles were reluctant to discuss their visionary experiences publicly.  Fifth, evidence indicates that a decreasing number of apostles experienced visions before or after ordination.
“The change in the apostolic ‘charge’ apparently began with the appointment of Reed Smoot as an apostle in 1900.  General church authorities had long regarded him as ‘reliable in business, but [he] has little or no faith.’  President Lorenzo Snow blessed him to receive ‘the light of the Holy Ghost’ so that he could bear testimony of Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith.  That was an extraordinary departure from the apostolic charge as given since 1835.
“…Twentieth-century apostles began applying this ‘as if’ approach to their spoken testimonies.  Usually this involved wording their ‘special witness’ of Christ in a way that encouraged listeners to assume the leader has had a more dramatic encounter with the divine than actually claimed.”
The full discussion ranges from pages 1 through 6 and would require too much typing to do it here.  But the above, taken only from pages 1-2, gives you some more particulars than my brief reference before.  The whole discussion is documented with references from the Church’s archives where the writer reviewed the transcripts of the actual ordinations, etc.  They are all set out in the footnotes, which are omitted from the quote I have excerpted above.

Why wait?

The question was asked as to whether receiving the Second Comforter is necessary before you die, or if the afterlife supplies an adequate substitute.  This requires the evaluation of two separate concepts.
First, the Second Comforter means a visit or personal appearance to someone by Christ.  However, the appearance is not as important as the ministry of the Lord.  He “comforts” those to whom He appears.  He will “not leave you comfortless, he will come to you.”  (John 14: 18.)  Christ and His Father will “make their abode with you.” (John 14: 23.)  Meaning that the Son will bring you to the Father, and the Father will receive you as His son.  This appearance is not merely “in the heart,” but is an actual appearance or visit.  (D&C 130: 3.)
However, the purpose of the ministry, the reason for the “abode” with you, the “comfort” that is promised by the Lord, involves the promise of eternal life.  The promise of eternal life has been made an equivalency by the Lord in a revelation given in modern times.  That is, the end or result of the ministry of Christ as the Second Comforter is to have the promise of eternal life.  In a modern revelation the word of the Lord was given to a group of Latter-day Saints in which the promise of their exaltation was extended to them, and the Lord made this the equivalent to “another Comforter.”  
Here is what was said:

“Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John. This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom; Which glory is that of the church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son— .”  (D&C 88: 3-5.)

Therefore, as a singular appearance, should the Lord appear to you, you have received the Second Comforter.  However, His ministry is to bring you to the point at which you can receive the promise of eternal life, membership in the Church of the Firstborn, and the promise of the Celestial Kingdom as your eternal inheritance.  In the fullest sense, therefore, the final promise of exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom can also be called the Second Comforter, since that is the result of His taking up His abode with you.

The second concept is really a question: Would it be preferable to have the promise of eternal life now than to die uncertain as to your eternal state?  If so, then why would you waste your life now in hopes that some other opportunity may exist at some other stage?  
If the answer to these questions are “yes” then the original question is simply unimportant. Why wait? The opportunity given to you now should not be forfeited, nor should the work be delayed.  Don’t dismiss the Lord’s offered assistance for what you can achieve in mortality for the possibility of something in the after-life.

“of strong faith and a firm mind”

Consider this:
“[N]either have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men.  For behold, they are subject unto him, to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness. And the office of their ministry is to call men unto repentance, and to fulfil and to do the work of the covenants of the Father, which he hath made unto the children of men, to prepare the way among the children of men, by declaring the word of Christ unto the chosen vessels of the Lord, that they may bear testimony of him.”  (Moroni 7: 29-31.)
Note that angels show themselves to those “of strong faith and a firm mind.”  Also, that the visit will require them to whom such visits come to “bear testimony of [Christ]” as a result of those visitations.
From Joseph Smith:
“A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination beware of; because the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God.”  (TPJS p. 137.)
Note that the “imagination” is not useful in gaining communion with God.  Fanciful, flowery and heated imaginative thoughts will detract, not contribute, to knowing Him.  The only way is to possess the same mental state as Moroni refers to – careful, sober, solemn, deep thoughts are required.  The mind must reach into heaven as well as the darkest abyss.  The opposition of things in this creation and the balance of those opposites will cause you to encounter the worst as you strive to enjoy the best. All is kept in balance throughout the process.
A person can’t imagine they have salvation.  They must “know” they possess it.  The heavens should declare it to them.  When the heavens bestow this knowledge upon a person, it is an anchor to their soul and they will never fall.  But until then, a person needn’t suppose they possess something which God has not declared by His own voice to be theirs.

True teachers will labor to help you understand how real, deliberate, attainable, and necessary this process is to engage in.  They will not ask you to follow them.  They will teach you how to follow God, and obtain from God knowledge of salvation.  False teachers will distract you. They will tell you all is right, that there is enough good being done in your life to merit God’s favor, and that it is not necessary for you to do more than belong to a privileged group.

You cannot possess the knowledge which will save you until you have learned for yourself that God lives, and that He has promised to you eternal life.

Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day.

The single greatest institution is also the most successful one in all the earth’s history.  Mothers have kept civilization together from the beginning.

Fathers have been far less valiant in history than have mothers.  Fathers have forsaken their responsibilities to bear priesthood and perpetuate the Gospel with such regularity that the history of mankind is predominately a history of apostasy.  Mothers however, have continued to bear, raise, nurture and love their children.
God bless those who are our mothers or the mothers of our children.  Today  we should honor them in thought and deed.

(I’m doing all the cooking today.  And all the dishes, too.  I think I’ll use TGI Fridays to get them done…)

Micah Chapter 3

O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of the house of Israel; Is it not for you to know judgment? 

Who hate the good, and love the evil; who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones;  Who also eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them; and they break their bones, and chop them in pieces, as for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron.
 

Then shall they cry unto the Lord, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings. 
 

Thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him.  
 
Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them. 
 

Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God. 
 

But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin. 
 

Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity.
 
They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. 
 

The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? none evil can come upon us. 
 

Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest.

Peoplehood

One of the very substantial differences in the way we are currently evolving is almost unnoticed.  I’ve tried to capture the difference in what I’ve written by using the terms “movement” in contrast to “institution.”  Those terms help to explain the notion, but it is really something more than that.  I’m going to use a different way to explain it in this post, and see if I can get a little closer to the real underlying process which is now underway.

The original development under Joseph Smith was something quite distinct from all existing faiths.  It was not just a new religion.  It was a wholesale resurrection of an ancient concept of “Peoplehood.”  It was radical.  Its purpose was to change diverse assortments of people, from every culture and faith, with every kind of ethnic and racial composition, into a new kind of People.  They were to be united under the banner of a New and Everlasting Covenant, resurrecting the ancient Hebraic notion of nationhood and Peoplehood.  No matter what their former culture was, they were adopted inside a new family, a covenant family.  Status was defined not be virtue of what you believed or confessed, but instead by what covenants you have assumed.

What returned through Joseph Smith was not a religion, nor an institution, nor merely a faith.  It was instead the radical notion that an ancient covenant family was being regathered into a separate People.  This return to ancient roots brought with it, as the hallmark of its source of power, the idea of renewed covenants that brought each individual into direct contract with God.  It did not matter what they believed.  It only mattered that they accepted and took upon them the covenant.

Once inside the new People, there was a new culture where ancient ties returned to bind the hearts together.  There was a dietary regimen where the People were reminded at every meal that they were distinct and apart from the world.  There was the gift of sacred clothing, in which they were reminded of their separateness by the things put upon their skin.  There were financial sacrifice of tithes, gathered from the People to help the People.  The fortunes of all were intertwined with each other by the gathering of tithes and offerings into the Bishop’s storehouse to help the poor and needy among the People.  It was NOT a religion.  It was a People.  It was to become The People.  And The People were required to extend to all others the same equal opportunity to become also part of the covenant.

This is different from a religion.  It was cultural, personal, and as distinct as a Jew views himself to be from a Christian.  To a Jew, religion is a part of the equation.  They share blood with other Jews, and therefore even if a Jew is not attending weekly synagogue meetings, they retain their status as one of the Jews.

Religion on the other hand is merely a brand name for a sentiment.  One can be a Presbyterian or a Lutheran and still belong to the same Elks Lodge.  There is nothing really distinct between the two, other than where they meet for an hour or two on Sundays.  Apart from that, they identify culturally as “Protestants” and brothers.  There is no great distinction, and the theological differences which separate them are so trivial that a doctrinal disagreement between them is unlikely.

Mormonism has taken a direct course-change where the original elements of separate Peoplehood are now viewed as an impediment to wider acceptance.  The distinctions are being minimized in order to undo the conflicts that marred the relationship between Mormonism and the larger American society.  The lessons learned from those conflicts have led to the idea that we must become more actively engaged in public relations.  Our commitment to the public relations process has informed us that we have to become less distinct to get along with others.  We need to drop our misunderstood and offensive claims to distinctions that claim superiority, and urge instead the things that we share with the Presbyterians and Lutherans.  The ultimate end of that process is to make it just as meaningless and controversial a thing for a Mormon to belong to and fellowship with the Elks Lodge as it is for the Presbyterian and Lutheran.  This is one of the great goals of the Correlation process and the public relations effort of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The outreach at present is merely an attempt to get people to accept the church as another form of Historic Christianity, claiming equality among peers, without any desire to confront or cause conflict.  The notion of Peoplehood is being suppressed.  Any claims of superiority of the faith are suppressed.

Enthusiastic scholarship is working alongside the larger public relations effort.  The work of Robinson at BYU, for example, in his reconciliatory book, (co-authored with a member of the Evangelical-based Denver Theological Seminary faculty) “How Wide the Divide,” made an attempt to discuss Evangelical Protestant notions alongside Mormon notions and to minimize any differences.  The underlying presumption is that we are both merely religions.  As fellow religions we share an attempt to come to God through teachings we believe in and scriptural texts we share.

Reconciliation between what Joseph Smith restored and other religions should never have been a goal.  Joseph’s restoration was not a church.  It was not a religion.  It was not a bundle of beliefs.  By trying to reach a common footing among other mainstream Christian faiths we have to first abandon the very different footing upon which Joseph established the Restoration.

The original Restoration could never be like any of “them.”  They were churches.  Joseph restored Peoplehood.  To go from what Joseph restored to a common footing requires us to first abandon the concept that we are neither a new form of Christianity, nor a return to Jewish antecedents.  We are something quite different from either.  We are an Hebraic resurrection of God’s People, clothed with a covenant, and engaged in a direct relationship with God that makes us distinct from all other people.

When we view ourselves as a Christian faith, we deconstruct the very foundation upon which we began.  We aren’t that.  We can never be part of Historic Christianity.  And yet that has been our front-and-center effort through the focus on public relations and the scientific study of what words we should use to advance our acceptance in the world.

Read the earliest of Mormon materials and you will be shocked by how differently they viewed themselves from how we now view ourselves.  They were building a separate People.  They invited all to come and partake of the covenant, renounce their prior errors, and return to living as one of God’s New and Everlasting Covenant holders.


To rid ourselves of that tradition, we need to assume the elements of a typical religion.  Rather than defining ourselves as a separate People, we turn to defining a set of beliefs.  Establishing an orthodoxy and then insisting upon uniformity of belief to belong to the orthodox religion is the way of the Catholics and Protestants.  They are bound together NOT by their peoplehood but instead by their confessions of faith.  So as you de-emphasize our Peoplehood, you must then begin to emphasize and control an orthodox statement or confession of faith.

These dynamics are worth very careful thought.  There is an actual consensus among church leaders that this is the right way to proceed.  A discussion about it among Latter-day Saints has not even begun at the rank and file level.  The transition takes place over decades, and unless someone first creates a vocabulary for the problem, we don’t even have the capacity to discuss or notice what is happening and why.

This post has gone on too long.  Not really a blog post subject.  It’s a book-length subject.  I make fleeting comments about something that would take pages to develop.  But I doubt I’ll write the needed book.  Instead I will try to bring the idea into the consciousness of you good people and let it percolate about.  Surely some of you can do something about it.