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A parable

A parable – for which I borrow Hindu and Buddhist notions to make it possible to tell.
There was a certain man who feared not God nor regarded his fellow man; who was filled with ungoverned lust and anger.  He married, fathered a child, and abused his son daily, for he was without compassion.  In the course of his abuse, he injured his son frequently.  When the child was a young boy, in a fit of anger, the man killed his son.  He was arrested, convicted of the murder, and executed.
Time is known only to man, but not to God, for all things past, present and future are before Him at all times in one eternal “now.”  God, who is merciful and whose purpose is to improve His children, to bring about their immortality and lead them into eternal life, needed this man to understand within his heart how his acts affect others.  For the man regarded not his fellow man and could not feel compassion for his wicked deeds.  With God all things are possible, and therefore the man was sent back again to mortality for further instruction.
When he returned, the man was born as the son of a certain man who feared not God nor regarded his fellow man.  His father was filled with ungoverned lust and anger.  His father abused him daily and in the course of abuse he was frequently injured.  One day the father killed him.
When men die they return to God, who gave them life, and so the child, who had once been a wicked man, returned again to God.  The Lord asked him upon his return: “Do you now understand?”
The man replied, “Yes.  I have been both.  I have been the victim and I have been the perpetrator.  I have been the father and I have been the son.  I have released my uncontrolled anger and I have been the victim of it.  I remember abusing and I also remember being abused.  I see now that when I was ungovernable and unkind it was only myself who I abused.  What I have given has returned to me and I have caused my own suffering.”
The Lord said, “It is well. Now let these experiences work in you, for without the opportunity to use them to live aright, you are not yet ready.”
Having been the wicked father and the abused son, the man returned again to the same time and place to now be a neighbor of the wicked man and the abused son.  How, then, ought the neighbor act so as to show he had truly learned?
What we do to another, we only do to ourselves. We will all find in the end that we are indeed our brother’s keeper. We are our fathers, and we are our sons, and we ought to be One with each other.

My calculations

I was asked about the numbers in activity used in an earlier post. (Sorry no link, the moderator can’t remember which one) That calculation was one I made based on the statistics we were given by the Mission President on our area.
By way of background, I did a two year stint as the Ward Mission Leader, followed by five years on the High Council over missionary work in my stake. During the last two years on the High Council we would meet quarterly with the mission presidency.  During those meetings we would be updated on the numbers throughout the mission and the church.  The numbers worked out to approximately 37% activity rate church-wide.  HOWEVER, the definition of “active” included anyone who attended a single sacrament meeting during a quarter.  This had the effect of inflating the number by all those who attended during Easter and Christmas (because they all became instantly “active” during two quarters of the year).  They also were affected by the count of sacrament meeting attendees who came for missionary farewells and missionary homecomings.  
I did a count of my own to try and come up with a “distortion” number to attempt to calculate who was really carrying the load as an average.  I couldn’t get a consistent result using my own ward to allow for Easter/Christmas and missionary farewell/homecoming additions.  But it appeared to me the distortion was somewhere between as little as 5% and as much as 10%.  I took a mid-point between the two and made my overall estimate of 4,000,000 out of the total church membership as those who are really serving regularly, attending regularly, and who are not merely “active” by virtue of quarterly appearances in a sacrament meeting.  I hope that serves your purposes.

Record Keeping

Joseph touches on a principle in his letter on September 6, 1842 that is quite important.  It relates to keeping record and the day of judgment.
 
After quoting Revelation 20: 12, Joseph explains there are two kinds of records kept.  One is on earth, recording what men have done here.  The other is kept in heaven.  The one agreeing with the other.  (D&C 128: 7.)  He goes on to explain how these two records are related.
 
What is recorded on earth is recorded in heaven.  What is not recorded in earth “shall not be recorded in heaven.”  (D&C 128: 8.)
 
This principle was extended by President Spencer W. Kimball in a talk he gave in October, 1975 while President of the Church.  His comments included this: “Get a notebook, my young folks, a journal that will last through all time, and maybe the angels may quote from it for eternity. Begin today and write in it your goings and comings, your deepest thoughts, your achievements, and your failures, your associations and your triumphs, your impressions and your testimonies. Remember, the Savior chastised those who failed to record important events.”  (Originally printed in October, 1975 New Era; reprinted in New Era, Feb 2003, at page 32.)
 
Why would angels quote from your personal journal?  It would be based on the same principle given by Joseph Smith in Section 128.  Recording here those sacred events which happen in your life is necessary for the same events to be recorded in heaven.  The personal records of disciples of Christ have become scripture, but they began as a personal journal.  Nephi’s record was his journal. Alma’s, Abraham’s, Enoch’s and many others were also. Section 128 is a letter.  Most of the New Testament consists of letters.  These were written to or for family members or friends.
 
Do not underestimate the significance of what you record on earth in your own records.  If you record sacred events, written under the influence of the Holy Ghost, angels may not only quote from it (as Pres. Kimball suggested), but they may regard it as scripture itself. 

The individual and truth

There are two propositions I believe have the potential for defining our lives here in mortality.
First, the importance of the individual.
I really do believe in the importance, centrality and power of the individual.  What happens everywhere in the world begins with interpersonal relationships and the individual.  More can be done, and is done to change the course of history by the actions of individuals than anything else.

There’s that old saying that when God wants to change the world, He sends a baby.  Whether that baby is Buddha, or Gandhi, or Abraham Lincoln, or Henry Ford, or Thomas Beckett, or Jesus, the world changes when babies enter mortality.  All lives matter.  No one matters more than another in my view. The accumulation of lives well lived is the stuff of history.  How many unnamed artisans were required to build the Parthenon? 

Our day is the great day of the individual.  Now your thoughts can be sent by electronic means anywhere in the world.  Your audience can include every living person who has a connection to the internet.  I think there is a purpose there.

You matter.  All of us do.  Good ideas can now spread on eagle’s wings, so to speak.  A spark kindled today can light the whole world.

Second, the primacy of good.

I believe truth will triumph.  To be here on the earth required an initial “screening,” which was conducted before the people who are born here were permitted to come.  All those who live here came from a shared God and Father of us all.  Therefore, we have something in common.
Truth is recognizable.  It must be fought to be suppressed.  Although some will wage that fight and succeed in blighting their sense of the truth and light, the overwhelming majority will not.  The “light of Christ” given to all mankind as a commonly shared inheritance persists here.
The result is that truth will win.  In free exchanges of ideas, it will be truth that will ultimately triumph.  I believe the truth will win even if it is only spoken as a whisper in a hurricane of opposition.  It will win.
It is unnecessary for truth to come from authorized sources.  It is irrelevant for it to be opposed by authorized sources.  It will always triumph.  Crush it, burn it, send it into the wilderness and crucify those who believe it – it will triumph. 

THE Remnant

The subject of THE “remnant” is too great to undertake in a post here.  I’ve attended meetings lasting two days in which the subject was the sole matter being discussed.  I’ve had discussions, read a manuscript, exchanged emails and spent years on this subject with people who know more about the details than do I.  Therefore my conclusion is that it exceeds the parameters of this venue.
 

Identification of the “remnant” was critical to Joseph Smith.  Although we’ve discarded the issue, it was of central concern to the early Brethren.  So much so that the “remnant” was what drove the movement westward near the “borders of the Lamanites”   The first missionaries were sent to the “Lamanites” as part of the Restoration’s concern with the promised “remnant” of the Book of Mormon people.  (See D&C 32: 2.)  The Saints were required to move west to be near these people as part of locating Zion.  (D&C 54: 8.)
The Book of Mormon is filled with promises addressed to the “remnant” of those people.  Modern revelation promises they will blossom as a rose.  (D&C 49: 24.)
The first Temple built in the west after the exodus was in St. George to be near the suspected “remnant” to be reclaimed.  The first company in that Temple’s first session included a Chief from the Hopi tribe.  Brother Nibley was partial to the Hopi as the “remnant” or at least a part of the “remnant” and he wrote a good deal about them.
This is an important subject.  Worthy of study.  But it is too great a subject for treatment in a limited venue like this.  To do it justice would require this forum to become devoted to that subject for many days.  By the time it was finished, I doubt anyone would still be reading.  So I’ll just reaffirm the subject is important, and there are many passages in the Book of Mormon dealing with the “remnant” of the Book of Mormon people.  Promises extended to them have not yet been fulfilled.  But all those promises will be fulfilled.  As they are, the role of those people will change from what we see it today into something much more central to the Church.

Missionary in Kenya

There’s a family I home teach whose son is on a mission in Kenya.  They ride a motorcycle to teach outlying areas.  Three at a time on the bike through the rain and on muddy roads.  They are in a city of 75,000 and not a road is paved in the entire city.  Sort of like Sandy, Utah right now. Comparable size and dirt roads everywhere while they do their “stimulus” spending on roadways. 

They baptized four new converts last week.  My young elder (he’s mine because I still home teach him over the internet) did two of the baptisms.  It was quite a milestone in his young life.

 
The pictures are quite interesting.  Here’s this 6 foot white, smiling kid standing with a crowd of shorter, very dark faces all with the look of joy and kinship on their countenances.  He’s sort of a spectacle to the people there.  Not only his height, but his light skin and blonde hair.  Kids ask if they can touch him (and he lets them). 
 
What an adventure this young man is on.  What fun it is to share it by reading his emails sent back home.  It reminds me of just how small the world is after all.  I guess Disney got that right….

Follow Christ in all things

I was asked:
 
Nephi invites us to follow Christ in all the ordinances starting with baptism.  The endowment clearly requires us to follow Adam in seeking more light and truth, receiving ordinances and making covenants.  Finally, when we arrive in the sealing room we seek to follow and obtain the blessings of Abraham Isaac and Jacob.  Ultimately we follow Christ in all things, but I wondered if you could comment on this.
 
My response:
 
Nephi followed Christ.  Adam followed Christ.  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob followed Christ.  We get examples from sacred writings (and ordinances) which incorporate reference to earlier disciples of Christ, but always in the context of showing the need to follow Christ.
 
There is no jealousy about using a man who followed Christ as an example to follow.  One of the reasons the Melchizedek Priesthood is named after a man rather than retaining the original “Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God” was to prevent the frequent repetition of the Son of God name.  (See D&C 107: 2-4.)  This was respectful of the Son of God, while using the man Melchizedek as the example for using the authority which comes from the Son of God.
 
However, the one we follow is Christ and we follow His Gospel.  When we decide to follow only a disciple of His, even if it is a true disciple, we miss the mark and fall to a Telestial state and are no better than the liars and thieves.  (See D&C 76: 98-104.)  So even when it is a man whose example we list or refer to, it is only to the extent that the man illustrates the correct manner to follow the Son of God.
 
The God of the Telestial Kingdom (in which we are presently situated) is the Holy Ghost.  The God of the Terrestrial Kingdom (which the Millennium will reflect) is Jesus Christ.  The God of the Celestial Kingdom is God the Father.  (See D&C Section 76.)  The Holy Ghost brings us to Christ.  Christ brings us to the Father.  The Father extends the promise of exaltation by making you a son or daughter of God.
 
The plan of redemption brings us from our current, fallen state back to a state of awareness of our condition, and then by cleansing us, elevates us in light and truth.  The primary God with whom we deal here is the Holy Ghost.  However, the association with Christ is promised by Him in Chapter 14 of John.  Joseph Smith explained that when the promise given by Christ in that chapter of John is realized, then the Father and Son will visit with the person from time to time.  He also clarified that the visit referred to is actual, not just something “in the heart” of a believer.  (D&C 130: 3.)
 
Abraham is the example used in the sealing ordinance because Abraham’s covenant with the Lord is the prototype of what the Lord promises all those who follow Him.  Those promises include eternal increase (posterity), land (inheritance) and eternal life.

Current State of Things

I was asked why I do not sound the alarm about the current state of society more often.  My view is that fixing problems on a large scale is not helpful. The fix should occur at the individual level.  We fix the whole of society with individual conversions, not by better legislation.  I do have a view about the state of the world at present.  It comes from Moroni, and other modern revelations.  I might as well lay out that view, briefly:

Satan does not create.  He cannot.  He only destroys what others create.

Since life itself is sacred, and he cannot create life, he shows his “great power” by taking life.  This is the reason he taught murder to Cain, because if life is among the greatest of gifts from God, Satan’s secret work of murder attacks the power of creation.  (See Moses 5: 29-32.)

If you want to know where Satan’s great work is prospering anytime in history, look for those groups who organize to kill others.  Those who preach hate, lead to violence, lead to murder and ultimately mass killing.  These are the ones who do not create, nor do they respect the great gift of creation given by God to mankind.  These are they who are overcome by the devil, who love a lie, who make war with God and will ultimately succeed in completely rejecting what He has offered to them.  (See D&C 76: 28-37.)


“Destroyer” is one of Satan’s names.  (See D&C 61: 19.)
Murder of the innocent is one of the unpardonable sins.  (See D&C 132: 19)  It is so offensive because it undoes the great gift of life given by God.  It is a direct challenge to God’s authority.  He alone holds the keys of life and death.  Killing directly invades God’s authority.
We live at a time when there are organized efforts to form groups for the sole purpose of killing others.  This behavior is so directly analogous to the Gadianton conspiracy within the Book of Mormon that the lessons there should serve as notice to us.  Moroni interrupted his translation of the Book of Ether to give us this warning: 
 Ether 8: 20-26 

  20 And now I, Moroni, do not write the manner of their oaths and combinations, for it hath been made known unto me that they are had aamong all people, and they are had among the Lamanites.

21 And they have caused the adestruction of this people of whom I am now speaking, and also the destruction of the people of Nephi.

22 And whatsoever anation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed; for the Lord will not suffer that the bblood of his saints, which shall be shed by them, shall always cry unto him from the ground for cvengeance upon them and yet he avenge them not. 

23 Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get apower and gain—and the work, yea, even the work of bdestruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction if ye shall suffer these things to be.

24 Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this asecret combination which shall be among you; or wo be unto it, because of the blood of them who have been slain; for they cry from the dust for vengeance upon it, and also upon those who built it up.

25 For it cometh to pass that whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the afreedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies; even that same liar who bbeguiled our first parents, yea, even that same liar who hath caused man to commit murder from the beginning; who hath chardened the hearts of men that they have dmurdered the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out from the beginning. 

26 Wherefore, I, Moroni, am commanded to write these things that evil may be done away, and that the time may come that Satan may have ano power upon the hearts of the children of men, but that they may be bpersuaded to do good continually, that they may come unto the fountain of all crighteousness and be saved.    

Having said the foregoing, let me add that I do not think knowing our awful circumstance does a thing to fix it.  What fixes it is to have more people come to the Lord, develop love for their fellow man, and live the commandments given by Him.  That is something done one person at a time.  I despair when I think in larger numbers than the individual.  I rejoice when I think of the single person.  For anything is possible with each person, no matter what their circumstances. 

Fast and Testimony

In our ward yesterday we heard testimonies from ward members who rarely speak.  It was delightful.  One of the best testimony meetings I can recall.  One fellow who spoke was so moved by what he was telling us that he had to choke back tears.  His elderly mother has Alzheimer’s disease and he could not be certain what was getting through to her.  She responded to him touching her hand, rubbing her back, and whispering to her during his last visit.  His comments focused on charity toward others, and the great example he pointed to was the  group responsible for caring for the people at the facility where his mother was located.  They were primarily Hispanic.  They labored with smiles on their faces and showed such genuine care for the people that he had to thank someone as part of his last visit.  He spoke with a woman working there, and thanked her and the whole staff through her for the kindness, charity and love they show while providing care for the people they serve.  The woman was grateful for his comments.  His whole testimony was about charity and caring for others.  It was quite moving, and a reminder again of how many opportunities there are to provide service to others.

Another fellow spoke about his baptism, long ago in the South.  He was baptized in a “muddy stream” when he was young, and he can remember how cold it was on that day.  It was the first time my children had heard him speak, although we have been in the same ward for nearly two decades.  They all were surprised he had a southern accent.  And they all said they now “really loved the guy” because of what he said and how he said it.  Before they hardly noticed him because he was so very quiet.

What a wonderful thing a ward family is.  There hasn’t been a ward I’ve attended that hasn’t been quirky, diverse, interesting and at times trying.  It’s a good thing we are divided by area and cannot choose where to attend.  We have no choice but to associate with a diverse lot of people.  I think that is healthy.