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Dumbing down?

I had a friend suggest to me that the Lord was requiring the church to “dumb down” the curriculum. I absolutely reject that idea. It’s just preposterous. The Lord always offers light and truth to any who come to Him. It is men who turn away from what is offered.

Weekend movie

I watched a new DVD we bought from Deseret Book titled “One Good Man.”

If it was satire or intended as irony then it was quite good. If it was just a straight up drama then I hated it. Since it was an LDS product, and sold at Deseret Book, I assume it wasn’t meant as irony or satire.

It offended me because the lead character was called to be a Bishop. This makes the hero a church leader. The hero treats one of his ward members as disposable, but goes out of his way for non-members and widows. It resulted in the inactivity of an entire family whose sole outreach by the bishop was to go Christmas caroling with his family on their porch. While there, he tells the wife that he, “hadn’t seen them in church lately.”

It was depressing. As irony it shows how a “good” man can’t always do good. Life is riddled with conflicts and unintended harm. So I like it as irony.

How I study the scriptures

I was asked about how I study.  It was a good enough question I thought I ought to address it here.

First, I spent over 20 years teaching Gospel Doctrine weekly.  To prepare for a class I would read the assigned scriptures on Sunday evening.  Beginning Monday I would research in commentaries what others had said about the passages in the assigned lesson.  Then before going to bed I would re-read the scriptures for the next lesson.

I would continue this process daily until Thursday.  Beginning Thursday I would start to outline what I intended to cover in the lesson on Sunday.

Throughout the week I would listen to the relevant scriptures for the next lesson on tape/CD whenever I was in my car.  So on the way to and from work I would listen and re-listen to the scriptures.

On Saturday I would pray then put a final lesson plan together. It took about 10 hours a week for me to prepare a 50 minute lesson. 

In all the time I taught I never repeated a lesson.  I tried to go deeper and deeper into the meaning of the material every time I taught it.

Today with that background I read books and scriptures daily.  However, I take what I learn back into my scriptures and add cross-references or margin notes to make scriptural passages more meaningful for me.  My scriptures have very little underlining and no coloring, but there are many notes and cross-references in them.

I try to tie any new concept I learn, no matter the source, back into the scriptures.   Lately I have also taken to using an electronic version of the scriptures to help locate material or passages which relate to a topic.

Twelve Oxen

The Temple of Solomon had a “sea” for washings of the priests.  The description of that “sea” is found in 1 Kings 7: 23-26Significantly the “sea” sat upon the backs of twelve oxen. (verse 25.)  Three were facing north, three facing west, three facing south, and three facing east. 

In the time of the First Temple, these twelve oxen foreshadowed the scattering of Israel to the four corners of the earth.  The destruction of the First Temple completed the scattering, which began at the death of Solomon, who was responsible the construction of the First Temple.  When he died, the kingdom was divided north and south.  The northern kingdom contained ten tribes, which would be taken into Assyrian captivity at about 725 b.c., and then be lost to history as they scattered northward.  The remaining two tribes of the south were taken captive by Babylon at 600 b.c., and then a “remnant” returned.  They were finally dispossessed of their land at 70 a.d. by the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, and scattered throughout the Roman Empire.

We also build fonts in Temples with twelve oxen bearing the font of water used for baptisms for the dead.  These twelve oxen are also divided into groups of three facing north, west, south and east.  Now, however, the oxen signify the gathering of scattered Israel.  They also signify by their number, three, the concept of presidency or organization under restored priestly authority.  The circle of twelve also are a symbol of restored, reorganized Israel in the latter-days to once again exist as a united people upon the earth.

Nicodemus

When Christ taught publicly and could be heard daily, there was no need to approach Him at night in private.  However, Nicodemus, a Pharisee member of the Sanhedrin, came to Jesus to examine Him “by night” without his peers knowing that he was making this contact.  Christ knew the heart of Nicodemus, and put the matter squarely to him:
 
“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  (John 3: 3.)
 
The assertion made here is: 
 
“Verily, verily”–meaning that Christ was capable of announcing truth.
 
“I say unto thee”–meaning that Christ was capable of making commandments, establishing conditions, announcing the requirements for salvation.  Indeed, Christ was putting Himself into the position of Moses, becoming a lawgiver.
 
“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven.” –meaning that if Nicodemus intended to see heaven, Christ was declaring the condition for entry.  Becoming a new creature was essential.  Without newness, new birth, a new approach to life, all things which Nicodemus followed would lead away from the kingdom of heaven.

Nicodemus responded: “How can a man be born again when he is old?  Can he enter the second time into the mother’s womb, and be born? ” (John 3: 4.)
 

This isn’t a rhetorical or meaningless question, nor does it announce ignorance.  Nicodemus is testing Christ.  If this is a new lawgiver, and possessed the capacity to announce conditions for entry into heaven, then He needs to explain His meaning.  This is a Pharisee Rabbi, asking a young, new Rabbi to set the matter plainly.

Christ responded: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of flesh is flesh: and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.  The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but cannot tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”  (John 3: 5-8.)


Now it is put plainly:
 
Born as a new man, by water (baptism) and Spirit (receive Holy Ghost) is required to “enter into the kingdom of God.”  Without receiving these new ordinances from the new officiators (John the Baptist and Christ), the old ordinances will no longer be accepted.  This is a call to Nicodemus to receive the new prophets then preaching. Without accepting these new prophets, he could not enter into God’s kingdom.
 
Flesh is just flesh. What is required to be able to go where God is will require every person to receive a new Spirit, new life, and become connected with heaven.  
 
Heaven is unruly, unpredictable and blows without predictability.  The Spirit is unruly, requiring things which men do not anticipate.  It takes you places you have not been before.  You cannot just sit within the councils of the Sanhedrin and reason with men’s understanding.  You must become inspired by a higher source.  You must accept that new direction from above, or you will never enter into God’s kingdom.

Brilliant.  Christ taught the teacher.  Now the matter is put to him: Will he receive a new life, and leave the old one?  Will he become born again.

How hard it must have been for a man in Nicodemus’ position to approach Christ.  The fact he came at night testifies to the discomfort of his circumstances.  Yet Christ, in patience, told him how to receive eternal life.

What a revealing encounter.  We are the richer in our understanding for it having occurred.

Strangers and Angels

Here was my thought to the kids last night as they were getting ready to for bed:
 
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”  (Heb. 13: 2.)
 
I believe that.  I think it happens more often than people generally believe or even think possible.

It is enough for one to seek him

The Gospel of Jesus Christ, in a fullness, with power to save and exalt, remains intact on the earth.  Whenever there are those who come to Him, He will quickly come to them.
 
Since salvation is always an individual event, the failure of others to search for and obtain the great blessings which He makes available to His followers is not and never has been predicated upon the success of a group.
 
It is enough for one to seek Him.  But when two or three are gathered in His name, He will not leave them comfortless, but will respect their faith, heed and diligence.
 
Lamenting about the decay all around you will not help you draw closer to Him.  If you detect that decay, then your eyes have been opened, and you should do something about it in your own life.  Condemning the failure of others has not advanced a single soul in history.  It is true enough that the Lord may require by the constraint of the Spirit that people be “reproved betimes with sharpness” but only “when moved upon by the Holy Ghost.”  (D&C 121: 43.)  But the Gospel of Jesus Christ consists in gathering light and truth, which is not accomplished by focusing upon the failings of others.  (D&C 93: 28.)

Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve could not have children while they were in the Garden of Eden.  They lacked the capacity to bear children in the innocent state in which they then existed.  See 2 Ne. 2: 23
 
They had been given the gift of childbearing as an endowment from God.  The endowment of the capacity did not mean they had the means or understanding at the time to act upon it.  Without the fall, they would not have been able to act on the endowment.  They were like little children who are born male and female with the capacity to one day become parents, but who are immature and innocent, and therefore unable to bear children.
 
The great offense was in Satan’s control of the timing.  Had they remained in the Garden throughout the Sabbath day of rest then they would have received the commandment to partake of the fruit in the Lord’s timing. At this point they would have moved from their innocent state into a condition not unlike the Millennial day.  The “fall” would have transitioned to a Terrestrial state, rather than a Telestial state. 

Faith, belief, knowledge

The psalmist’s words, “by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer[.]” (Psalms 17: 4) refers to all the words of God.  Not just those in scripture alone, but also those that came from “thy lips” O Lord.  The Lord visited with the psalmist as he recorded: “thou hast visited me in the night.” (Psalms 17: 3.)
 
This idea of God’s visitation with those who follow Him is as ancient as creation itself.  Belief was always intended to grow into faith.  Faith was always intended to grow into knowledge.