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Weightier matters

The gospel contains practically an infinite amount of information. You can study a lifetime and not exhaust what is contained the scriptures and the ordinances.

Christ distinguished between mere physical conformity to rules, like tithing, and the “weightier matters.” While acknowledging that there is a need to do the outward ordinances, Christ elevated “judgment, mercy, and faith” to the status of being “weightier.” (Matthew 23:23.)

The Apostle Paul went one step further and elevated charity (the pure love of Christ) to being so important that salvation itself depends upon a person’s charity. (1 Corinthians 13: 1- 3.) 

Paul describes charity as longsuffering, kind, without envy, humble, meek, thinking no evil, rejoicing in the truth, willing to bear all things, full of belief and hope, and willing to endure whatever is required. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7.)

Our conversion to the gospel should produce fruit. Of all the fruit that evidences our conversion, it is our charity or love toward others which most demonstrates the gospel has taken hold in our heart.

We can be proud of our knowledge. But we can never be proud of our charity. Pride and charity are incompatible. Some of the most eager latter-day saints demonstrate by their ambition and impatience that they are unprepared for the Kingdom of God, and have not given adequate attention to the weightier matters.

Forty is a symbol

The number 40 appears in a several different places in the scriptures, almost always in the context of purging or purification. When the Lord destroyed the wicked at the time of Noah, He caused it “to rain upon the earth for forty days and forty nights.” (Genesis 7:4.) When Moses met with the Lord on the Mount, he was in the presence of the Lord “forty days and forty nights” (Exodus 24:18.) When Israel proved unprepared to inherit the promised land, the Lord left them in the wilderness for forty years. (Deuteronomy 8:2.)

Elijah was fed by an angel before being sent into the wilderness. After the meal, Elijah “went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.” (1 Kings 19:8.) In preparation for His ministry, the Lord likewise “fasted forty days and forty nights.” (Matthew 4:2.) That preparation culminated in angels ministering to the Him. (Matthew 4:11.)

In these examples, it is not a man volunteering or choosing to afflict his soul for forty days. The period of purification is imposed by the Lord. We do not get the choose to be purified through suffering for a period of forty days, or forty years, or any other amount of time. However, if the Lord chooses to purify a soul, and that suffering does last for forty days, you can take it as a sign that the purification was given of God.

I know people have tried to voluntarily afflict themselves for forty days. I think an effort like that shows a poor understanding of how God deals with man. We wait on Him. We submit to Him. Then He alone chooses.

All earthly things?

Lectures on Faith, Lecture 6: 7

“Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things.”

Is the sacrifice of all earthly things always necessary for faith unto salvation?

This kind of sacrifice is between the individual and God. You cannot fabricate a sacrifice to try and qualify. It is the Lord who sent Moses back to Egypt to confront Pharoah. It is the Lord who asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. It is the Lord who sent Lehi into the wilderness. It is the Lord who allowed the brothers, Joseph and Hyrum, to fall into the peril that would take their lives.

It is only when the Lord requests the sacrifice that it becomes possible to make the sacrifice knowing you are pleasing the Lord. The result does produce saving faith.

In Reply to Inquiries

I know many (perhaps most) of those who will attend the Temple Conference are regular readers of this blog. The conference will be held in Logan at Utah State University. The total seating will allow approximately 320 to attend.

The fireside will be free. There is no requirement for you to either have a ticket, or to attend the conference to attend the fireside. It will be digitally recorded. The recording will be done by someone I trust, and they will be responsible for making it available once it has been finished.

Whether you attend the Temple Conference or not, you are welcome to attend the fireside. It is open to the public, and free of charge.

We originally reserved the Logan Tabernacle for the fireside. It is still reserved. However, given the difference between the conference, and the fireside, it appears likely it would be more convenient for fireside attendees if it is moved to the Wasatch Front. We have contracted for a 1,000 seat auditorium in Ogden and the plan is to hold the fireside there.

We estimate the fireside may have 350-400 attend. Therefore there should be ample seating.

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I want to clarify that I never post or write without using my name. If I comment on a news article or any other place, I always use my name. There are no anonymous or fictitious characters who are me in disguise. I do not do that.

Further on Quiet

Joseph Smith had been confined for months in Liberty Jail. It was a harrowing ordeal, made all the more so because of so little news about the saints. On March 24th, Joseph received letters from several friends, including his brother Don Carlos Smith, Bishop Partridge and his wife Emma.

The letters were welcomed, but sent Joseph’s mind racing in all directions as he considered the plight of his family, friends and the church. He wrote:

“[T]hose who have not been enclosed in the walls of a prison without cause or provocation, can have but little idea how sweet the voice of a friend is; one token of friendship from any source whatever awakens and calls into action every sympathetic feeling; it brings up in an instant everything that is passed; it seizes and present with the avidity of lightening; it grasps after the future with the fierceness of a tiger; it moves the mind backward and forward, from one thing to another…” (TPJS, p. 134.)

This frenzy of thought was provoked by the letters. It set his mind whirling. He was filled with emotion and with intensity of thought about it all: past, present and future. In this state of mind he was awakened to appreciate keenly these terrible events and his own captivity.

But it was in the quietness which followed where the spirit whispered to him and we received through him revelations now contained in the D&C. He continues:

“[U]ntil finally all enmity, malice and hatred, and past differences, misunderstandings and mismanagements are slain victorious at the feet of hope; and when the heart is sufficiently contrite, then the voice of inspiration steals along and whispers–“ (TPJS, p. 134.)

“My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high.” (D&C 121: 7-8.)

The voice comes so quietly Joseph uses “steals along” to tell of its arrival.

It speaks so gently Joseph uses “whispers” to describe the voice.

Quietness

Our dispensation opened on a “beautiful, clear day” in the woods in early spring 1820. (JS-H 1: 14.)

It jumped forward again in 1823, at night, after Joseph and his family had retired to bed. It was at this time when an angel came to visit him. (JS-H 1: 28-30.)

These towering events happened in quiet settings. It calls to mind Isaiah’s remark about quietness: “And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.” (Isa. 32: 17.)

I think also of Paul’s advice to the Thessalonians: “and that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you.” (1 Thes. 4: 11.)

Why is being quiet a virtue worth acquiring?

Why is the effect of righteousness quietness?

Was it quiet when you had your most profound spiritual experience?

Have you ever known a deeply spiritual man or woman who could not be calm or quiet?

Upcoming Fireside

I’ve been asked about the upcoming fireside to be held on Sunday evening, October 28, 2012.

The fireside will occur somewhere in Northern Utah. When finalized, the details will be announced on this blog.

The fireside will focus on the temple and temple studies. The things I will discuss have meaning beyond the temple itself. I view the temple as a ritualized invitation to higher things. The presentation will extend into the nature of that invitation and the intended higher principles.

Answers to questions

Q: Why do you call the PEF a revelation?
A: The church has used that description. I have accepted the church’s vocabulary. Am I vile because I am willing to allow the church to control their own terminology?

Q: Doesn’t a revelation require “thus sayeth the Lord” and a transcript to be presented for approval by the church?
A: That has not been the practice for a long time. If the practice of limiting a “revelation” to something preceded by “thus sayeth the Lord” then some of Joseph Smith’s canonized teachings in the Doctrine & Covenants, and his personal testimony in the JS-H in the P of GP would be disqualified by the standard. Once again, I am allowing the church to control the vocabulary.

Q: Which is it, a divinely revealed program, or a poorly administered program?
A: Are the Ten Commandments a divine revelation even they have been poorly obeyed since the days of Moses? Is the Sermon on the Mount a divinely revealed elaboration on the Ten Commandments clarifying that it is what is in your heart that matters most, even though it has rarely been obeyed since the time of Christ? If God reveals a standard, as he has done many times, and men fail to reach the standard, does that mean God did not give a revelation?

Nephi’s Isaiah

Nephi states straightforwardly why he uses the Isaiah material in his own prophecy. It is in Nephi’s record, but the statement comes from his brother Jacob. Nephi records what is apparently his brother’s first address.

The stage is set for the sermon in 2 Nephi Chapter 5. Here we learn of the construction of a temple by the Nephites. The temple dedication ceremonies are left out of the account. It is an interesting omission. By chapter 6 the temple is in service.

Jacob’s sermon could very well have been both the event marking the commissioning of the temple, and the first sermon delivered to the people in the structure. Nephi put this into his account because he obviously approved of the sermon and wanted it preserved for all time.

Jacob states this:
“the words which I shall read are they which Isaiah spake concerning all the house of Israel; wherefore, they may be likened unto you, for ye are of the house of Israel. And there are many things which have been spoken by Isaiah which may be likened unto you, because ye are of the house of Israel.” (2 Ne. 6: 5.)
-What does “likened unto you” mean?
-Is there a difference between something literal and being “likened?”
-Does that difference matter?
-What about the limitation Isaiah spoke about “all the house of Israel?”
-Does the Book of Mormon designation of the European bloodlines that would displace the Lamanites as “gentiles” disqualify the gentiles from “likening” the words to them?
-Does the Book of Mormon promise that the gentiles can be “numbered” with the house of Israel allow the same “likening” to apply to the converted gentiles? (2 Ne. 10: 18; 3 Ne. 16: 13; 3 Ne. 21: 6; 3 Ne. 30: 2.)

Assuming the words can be “likened” to you, then what does that mean? Are the words to be taken as an analogy to guide us or as a promise given to us?

Jacob explains the analogy he wants to draw to the Nephites beginning in 2 Nephi Chapter 9. It is instructive.

Nephi ‘went to school’ on his younger brother’s example. He fills 2 Nephi with Isaiah’s words. Then, in the closing chapters of his book, he provides his own commentary. He ends his record in this manner. With all he had seen, with all he knew, and with all he was told to withhold from us, he uses Isaiah as his basis to teach, preach, exhort and expound to us. Much of it is addressed directly to the “gentiles” of our day. He applies Isaiah to the gentiles.

A great key to understanding Nephi’s prophecy is that he used Isaiah’s words as a tool to deliver his (Nephi’s) message. Using Isaiah’s intent will not help you. It is irrelevant. You must use Nephi’s interpretive keys in his closing chapters to understand Nephi’s intent in “likening” the prophecy to his people and to the latter-day gentiles. This is why I wrote Nephi’s Isaiah. You will be disappointed if you think it is an interpretation of Isaiah. It is not. The book is about Nephi’s message, not the words he employed to “liken” unto us. If you accept this approach you don’t need my book. You only need Nephi’s words.

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As a postscript about the Perpetual Education Fund:

When President Hinckley announced it in the April 2001 General Conference he said the following:
“they will return that which they have borrowed together with a small amount of interest designed as an incentive to repay the loan.”

This was the original intent.

I’ve received many emails explaining the way the original program was compromised and poorly administered. I acknowledge there may be problems with how it turned out. But that is the responsibility of the employees at the Church Office Building. Those problems do not reflect the purity of intent by the church members who donated. I think there are a lot of people in the bowels of the Church Office Building who have performed poorly for the church. Since these are funds given by faithful members, there is a responsibility which hasn’t been kept by some of these employees.