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Easter

I was the speaker in my ward on Easter Sunday. Although the talk was not written I’m going to try to summarize what was said. (I never “write” a talk. Just take a list of scriptures with me, which on this occasion I never used.)

In the months before I entered law school, I worked in Provo alongside a fellow named Jay Wirig. Jay had been a missionary in the 70’s in Hong Kong. While there, he suffered a collapsed lung. He was diagnosed and then sent by the doctor to see a specialist to be treated. His companion took him to the specialist’s office, which was up a flight of stairs. That isn’t much of a problem unless you have a collapsed lung.
When he arrived in the office, an unpretentious, elderly, Chinese fellow – in a spartan office- used a stethoscope to listen all about his chest and back. Then the fellow got out a tool that looked like a phillips-head screw driver, but had four razor tips on the end. Without warning or anesthetic the doctor stabbed him in the upper chest. It hurt. Then he fished a tube in the hole he’d just made, attached the tube to a suction bottle, and within a short while the lung re-inflated and pain went away – except for the wound on the upper chest. The doctor has no bedside manner, did not bother explaining what he was going to do or why. He just proceeded without regard to the patient’s feelings to administer what would cure the ailment.
When Jay returned to home after the mission ended, he suffered recurring collapsed lungs. Eventually, they recommended surgery. The surgery required them to enter his chest cavity through his underarm. When you open on the side, rather than through the solar plexus, the rib spreader crushes cartilage, pulls muscles and ligaments, and inflicts a great deal of trauma. He was kept in the same post surgical ward as the heart patients. The much older heart patients had their chests opened through the far less traumatic means of opening and spreading at the solar plexus. Therefore, the elderly patients were feeling quite well post-surgery, while Jay was in agony. He took some grief from the older patients, because here was a 20-something year-old young man complaining while they were not.
Poor bedside manner by physicians can make the patients they treat feel anxious and alienated, even if the medical treatment they provide is curative. Even if they ultimately do what is right, good and healing, doctors can leave the patient feeling victimized rather than cared for.
Similarly, lawyers can be insensitive to client’s feelings, becoming far more attentive to legal principles, theories and arguments than the underlying people affected by the dispute. When I was in law school, I co-authored a book on family law. Because of that, I wanted to practice family law when I graduated. In Utah that means primarily divorces, although it includes the occasional adoption and guardianship. I took divorce cases for about three years before I just could not stand that area of law any longer. It was too bitter, too divisive and too inadequate. It would take another three years before I finished all the cases I had pending, but when finished, I stopped practicing family law. Although I got good results for my clients, I was unable to identify with their emotional needs.
Some years later, after my own divorce, I saw this in a whole different light. As a result of going through the legal process for my own divorce, I concluded the law should not be used to deal with family dissolution. It should be handled by mental health counselors, who have adequate sensitivity for the horror and pain experienced any time a family is broken apart by divorce.
We have a ward infested with lawyers and doctors.  I would venture, perhaps every one of us can look back and see those we have helped professionally, but who we have failed inter-personally. We may have solved the legal or medical problem, but at the price of injuring the spirit of those we helped.
When Christ suffered, He gained knowledge. His knowledge is not limited to the physical cure, but includes the spiritual and mental anguish of our disappointments, losses, failures, illnesses, injuries and limitations. He said very little about what He went through. The longest single explanation given by Him is in D&C 19. There He states:
 15 Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.
Now this sounds like the Old Testament God. However, this is a warning based on the established laws by which all things operate. Sooner or later, all of us will come back into the presence of God. When we do we will either have repented and be prepared to be in His presence, or we will not have repented and we will withdraw in shame and agony. This is explained in Mormon 9: 3-5:
 
3Do ye suppose that ye could be happy to dwell with that holy Being, when your souls are racked with a consciousness of guilt that ye have ever abused his laws?
 4 Behold, I say unto you that ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell.
 5 For behold, when ye shall be brought to see your nakedness before God, and also the glory of God, and the holiness of Jesus Christ, it will kindle a flame of unquenchable fire upon you.
Joseph Smith said a man is his own tormentor and accuser. That is, when we see ourselves as we truly are, and can reckon our own unworthiness from the presence of a “just and holy being,” we will recoil in horror at our filthiness. We will see how vain we have been.
It is this problem Christ is warning us to guard ourselves against. It is a plea from Him to repent, so we may remove from ourselves this burden of guilt. This is the greatest gift of the Atonement. All other benefits of His suffering pale in comparison with this compassionate result of His suffering for our sins.
Section 19‘s explanation continues:
 16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; 
 17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
 18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
This is describing a specific event and time.  The only Gospel which records the event is Luke.  Luke 22 tell us:
 
41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, 
 42Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
 43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
For Him to suffer as we will if we choose not to repent, He was required to assume our sins, feel our anguish and unworthiness in the presence of a “just and holy God,” and then come back into harmony with Him. Hence the need for the “angel” to appear to Him from heaven. Unless He confronted exactly what we are called on to confront, He could not minister to us. He could not heal us. He could not take upon Him our sins.
And so He became as unworthy as any of us. No matter what malignant thing you have suffered, who you have abused or neglected, or what harm you have caused or endured, Christ has felt the anguish of that while in the presence of a “just and holy being.” He knew His sheep would flee while He suffered. But He also knew the Father would never leave Him:
John 16: 32: Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
Suffering the guilt of filthiness in the presence of His Father, He overcame and subdued all enemies to righteousness. He felt shame, but returned it to compassion. He felt agony and rejection, but overcame it with charity. By this means He gained the knowledge necessary to heal all our sins, remove all our guilt, and subdue all our anxieties in the presence of holiness. 
Isaiah says this:
Isa. 53: 11… by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
By bearing or taking upon Himself the guilt which divides us from the Father, Christ knows perfectly how to conduct you safely back to the Father’s presence.  As Christ explains in D&C 19, it requires us to “repent” — because if we fail to repent we must suffer, just as He did. Except our own suffering for our own sins is not curative. It is not redeeming. It is only justice. For us, we seek to claim mercy. Mercy comes from Christ’s Atonement which can and does render those who take part in it altogether clean.
His explanation in Section 19 continues:
19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.

He has prepared it for us. But it is our choice to take hold upon it. For that, our personal decision to repent remains at the core.

Christ’s capacity to heal us was gained through the Atonement. He possesses compassion in another measure beyond us. For Him the power of His compassion exceeds mere sympathy. It is a power to heal. His compassion removes from us the burdens we feel.
Joseph Smith wrote from Liberty Jail about the injustice of the Saints’ suffering from the Missouri mob attacks. As he listed his complaints, and clamored for justice against his enemies, his mind became a blur of emotion and events. With “the avidity of lightening” his mind turned over and over again the injustice of it all. Then, when his mind could take it no more, Joseph fell into a detached state of profound openness to God’s voice. Then the voice of inspiration came to him and said:
 
7 My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
 8 And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.
On the other side of this statement from God, Joseph was still in jail, under the same horrid conditions, with the same captors. But having heard the voice of God declaring, “peace be unto thy soul,” the compassion of Christ removed the pain of suffering. Now the conditions of his lamentable imprisonment became tolerable. For Christ’s compassion removes, empowers, enables, and enlivens. It frees us from the torments we suffer. Through Him we can bear all things.
Of all the Lord provided, an escape from our torments crowns His Atoning sacrifice. It empowers Him to liberate us from all our burdens. His compassion is a power, not a sentiment.

The game’s afoot

I was asked the following question:
 
“I ordered the book The Doctrine of Eternal Lives, but not yet received it.  I am a little caught off guard.  Is this teaching true?  I haven’t read enough to pray about it and I haven’t received the book to study it yet.  Can you tell me if it’s true?”

My response: 

I’ve never propounded this view, because whether true or not, it does not change a single thing about your life now. You have a challenge before you which can only be met by keeping every requirement established by the Lord for your redemption now.
 
I fear those who are most enamored by this teaching are only distracted by it. They speculate about their own past history (or histories), and don’t realize their present life is slipping into history without adequate attention being given to the moment-to-moment responsibilities we are called upon to meet every second of this life.
 
So, I leave it to you to decide if there’s something to it or not. But, I’d remind you, even if you decide there is truth in it, nothing should change. The game’s afoot and you have a challenge to live your life well NOW.

Learning and living

There is a considerable gulf between being aware of a teaching or doctrine and living it. I’ve noticed how it is often the case that we confuse our knowledge about an idea with the notion we are in possession of the attribute.

 
Learning doctrine and living it are two entirely different things.
 
The query by Alma the Younger in the Book of Mormon, “Are ye stripped of pride?” is more than meaningful. (Alma 5: 28.) It is clarifying. The lens we see ourselves through is distorted as long as pride is part of our makeup.
 
I don’t know of any way to strip ourselves of pride other than to suffer setback, loss, difficulty, disappointment or anguish. I’ve never been able to do so on my own. Without suffering, I cannot see myself in the correct light.
 
There are only a few people I know who have received God’s greatest approval; who have had the heavens opened to them and heard the voice of God. Almost without exception, they suffer from physical ailments, struggle with aging and reduced physical abilities, have losses, or bear anguish. These burdens have benefited them. Without a strong, corrosive encounter with difficulty they could not strip themselves of pride.
 
For the most part, organized religion does not do what is necessary to break down the hard, prideful hearts of followers. The prophecy of Isaiah is as current as this moment:”That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord: Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.” (Isa. 30: 9-11.)

We want to be taught a positive religion. We want praise. If something challenges our good self-image we think it unhelpful, negative and even devilish. But the truth is that until we have broken down before God, seen ourselves in our horrible weakness, foolishness and pride, and acquired a broken heart and contrite spirit, we will remain lying children that will not hear the law of the Lord. When our prophets will only speak smooth things to us we are only being deceived. We are compelling the Holy One of Israel to cease from among us.
 
But we do feel good about ourselves. We do think we prosper, and all is right.
 
More blessed, therefore, are those who will do the will of the Lord and not merely acknowledge it. Those who will break down their pride and realize they know nothing until they know God. When they meet Him, He will “reveal all things” to you (D&C 101: 32), because you will at last see yourself as you really are. (1 John 3: 2.)
 
Everything else is vanity.

Patience

I was recently in a discussion with a fellow regarding the topic of patience.
Moses spent 40 years in the Pharaoh’s courts. He apparently knew most of that time that he was to deliver Israel out of bondage. He killed the Egyptian, in part, because of his knowledge he would one day deliver them. Stephen explained, just prior to his martyrdom, the story of Moses. Stephen declared that Moses knew his calling from God made him the deliverer of Israel. (Acts 7: 24-25.) Moses presumed the Israelites would recognize him as the one promised to deliver them. He killed the Egyptian to identify himself to the Israelites. They were unimpressed, did not recognize him, and rejected his claim.
 
Seeing he had been rejected and betrayed by the Israelites, Moses fled for his life. (Acts 7: 26-29.)
 
Then, after another 40 years passed while he made a new life for himself in the wilderness, the “voice of the Lord” came to him and called him at last to perform as Israel’s deliverer. (Acts 7: 30-34.)
 
Moses knew his mission from his youth. But when he attempted on his own to begin that mission, his attempt failed. He was nearly killed for it and had to flee for his life.
 
After 40 years spent in the wilderness of Sinai, the time came and Moses was commissioned directly by the Lord to go forward.
 
WE control nothing. WE have no right to move the Lord’s hand. We may ask, but He alone commands. Timing is entirely the Lord’s. Although we may know what we have been assigned to do, it is the Lord alone who will decide when the assignment can be performed.
 
Christ wanted to begin His Father’s work at 12. (Luke 2: 41-49.)  It would be another 18 years before the Lord would be permitted to begin. In the interim, He “waited upon the Lord for the time of his ministry to come. And he served under his father, and he spake not as other men, neither could he be taught; for he needed not that any man should teach him. And after many years, the hour of his ministry drew nigh.” (JST-Matt. 3: 24-26.) Although fully prepared for “many years” before, the Lord “waited” on His Father for 18 years.
 
If Moses waited 40 years, and produced only disaster when he attempted to begin his mission early, and Christ waited “many years” for “the hour of his ministry to draw nigh,” then what possible reason can any of us give for refusing to submit in patience to the Lord’s timing for our  lives, mission, ministry, assignments and calling?
 
Among the many lessons of mortality, Christ learned patience. (Heb. 5: 8.) How arrogant must we be to presume we can tell better than the Lord when a blessing should come? How little understanding would we get if the Lord responded to our impatience and excused us from the necessity to first learn this noble trait of patience?

Elimination

I was asked about elimination of penalties in the temple ceremonies. It made me think of the following:
 
There was a general unease about the use of penalties. The solution was to eliminate them. Perhaps if temple goers were instructed in the value and the significance of the penalties, they  would not have been uncomfortable with them. They may have even been kept in the endowment ceremony.
 
In an abstract way, God sending His Son to be killed is an idea that could cause unease.  However, we’ve made a great effort to study the Lord’s sacrifice, to understand it and appreciate it. His sacrifice is not viewed as offensive, but rather as the source of gratitude, even awe, about what the Father and the Son were willing to do to rescue us from eternal disappointment.
 
Similarly, there are reasons to value, even cherish the penalties which were once a part of the temple rites. But not everyone considered their importance. A significant number of active saints just associated them with Masonic rituals, thought they were borrowed anyway, and never attributed anything more to them.
 
Old Testament covenant making was always associated with cutting. A marking, or cut, upon sacred clothing anciently also testified to the willingness to undergo a penalty if a vow or covenant with God was not fulfilled. God’s covenant with Abraham involved God swearing by His own life (for He could swear by nothing higher); the covenant being sealed by the divided carcases of sacrificed animals. (See Gen. 15: 8-21; Heb. 6: 13-15.) That great horror of darkness (Gen. 15: 12) was a revelation of outer darkness into which God would descend if He failed to keep the covenant. The burning lamp (Gen. 15: 17) which passed between the slaughtered, divided carcases was the Lord’s act sealing the covenant and swearing by His own life to fulfill all He promised to Abraham.
 
We may have lost respect and understanding, but that does not alter truth. Our loss of light does not make God’s brilliance any less. It just reduces our own association with, and understanding of Him. Today we seem pretty content to have others speak to God for us rather than to undertake the fearful responsibilities associated with coming into the presence of a living God. (Heb. 10: 31.)

And so we settle for inspirational ditties in lieu of doctrine.

 
Pleasantries in place of repentance.
 
Humor in place of sobriety.
 
We prefer our guides to be blind, because we think they hold onto the handrail better. Of course, when we proclaim them to be the handrail, it doesn’t matter what path they take any longer, does it?
 
We’ve become (or perhaps stayed) “too low, too mean, too vulgar” to claim we are the people of God –as Joseph Smith put it from Liberty Jail.
 
We’ll all arrive in Hell stained with deplorable sins of every magnitude but all with a good self image. The lessons there will be titled: 

“Why Fire is Good for Us”
“Burning Shows God’s Love to Us”
“When We Feel Pain, We Get Gain”
“God Loves a Fiery People”
“Odds Are We’re All Glorious”
“Burning Will Keep Us Bright”
“The Fire Belongs to the Refiner”
“Fissile not Fizzle”
“We are the Refining and Becoming Refined”
 
I never took offense at the penalties. I regret their elimination. However, I attended the temple so often that they are indelibly etched into my mind. Even today, I cannot attend without walking through in my mind the remainder of the covenant. They assure me of the exactness expected of us when we enter into a covenant with God. I like that reminder. It helps me to hold myself up to scrutiny which I might not otherwise expect. Though I fail, it is not because I approach the altar of God with anything less than complete respect for Him and His ways. My own impurity cannot detract from His complete purity. My weakness does not limit His forgiveness and mercy. But I have never detected in Him the least particle of imperfection, darkness or unholiness.

About “Eternal Lives”

There’s a buzz going about some blogs on the book titled “Teachings of the Doctrine of Eternal Lives.”  I was asked to put a note on my blog informing people that it can be obtained through Amazon.com or through Digitalegend.com at present in a printed form.

Apparently the book may not be available for long.  I’m not sure what that fully involves, but I’m putting the announcement up as requested.

Home Evening

We have Family Home Evening on Sunday night, because of all the activities our family has. Between softball, soccer, lacrosse, girl scouts, Young Women, school play, and gymnastics we don’t have an available evening other than Sunday. Today the sister Missionaries were visiting, and were included in the lesson and treat. One of the sisters has been out five days. She’s from Hawaii. The other is from Ohio and is the trainer senior companion. Our next door neighbor has a daughter currently serving a mission in Kirtland, Ohio.  She returns home in four days.

We are going to have the returning sister missionary speak to the Priests Quorum next month. The Bishop had to approve it, but he agreed a returning missionary is appropriate to instruct the Priests, even though she is a sister.

I was thinking about my home ward. We have a doctor who has serious physical ailments due to another physician’s malpractice. He is going to undergo experimental surgery at the U of U Medical Center to attempt to undo the serious disability currently afflicting him. (My ward includes so many physicians that as I write this I can’t be sure I’ve counted them all.) We have a member of the Draper Temple Presidency, Inner City Missionaries, English as a Second Language Missionaries, a Federal Judge, several families who have experienced the deaths of children, former Mission Presidents, skeptics, musicians, accountants, the strong and the weak. We have the faithful and the faithless in my ward. We have a family in which the father served a mission in Madagascar, where he met his wife. We have several families from Hong Kong and two from Korea. Our ward is a remarkable mix of ages, backgrounds, personalities and abilities.

I was thinking about how wonderful it is to have this arbitrary ward boundary where we are associated together by geographic division and not by preference for one another. We are expected to serve one another and with one another. Of all the benefits which come from the church, the association as a ward family with different, diverse people you have not sought to find is perhaps one of the greatest. It lets us stretch to serve. In many ways it mirrors our own families, where relationships are given us by God and choices others make in marriages. We do not control the make-up of our extended families, but are expected to love them anyway.

My Kingdom

I was asked an interesting question.  I thought the question and answer might be worth posting.

Question:

  
“In 3 Nephi 28, the 9 disciples are promised that when they die they will go to “my Kingdom” meaning Christ’s.  However, the other 3 who tarry are promised to go to the “Kingdom of my Father.” Are they different? They must be, but how? In what way? Different levels of Exaltation? This same thing is discussed in D&C 7. Peter is promised “My Kingdom” while John is promised the greater blessing. I’m assuming it’s “my Father’s Kingdom” like the 3 Nephite disciples.”
Answer: 
I’ve written about this in Beloved Enos. The offer is extended to all those whose calling and election is confirmed.  The 9 chose to move into the post-mortal inheritance at their death. That is, they would not be required to return here for anything else, but would be judged, crowned and exalted upon death. Because this is a blessing conferred by the Son, it is “His Kingdom” into which they will move. When the work is at last completed and delivered to the Father –at the end of the earth’s temporal existence– it becomes the Father’s at that point. The 3 will be awaiting that moment to receive that inheritance. The 9 will enter into the “Son’s” until then, and will likewise be among those who are received by the Father, in the due order of things. 

[My answer provoked a follow up question:]

  
“But doesn’t Peter, James and John have the earthly role of teaching Adam and Eve (us) further light and knowledge as shown in the temple? Do they send ministering angels or maybe even John since Peter and James don’t come to earth anymore?”
I answered:
Peter, James, and John were added to the endowment by Brigham Young, but weren’t part of what Joseph originally portrayed. They were added to remove required narration. When added, they are a “type,” and not intended to be the personalities or individuals. Much like Elias is a “title” and not a name. Peter, James, and John are in the endowment types, or “titles” – not intended to be the actual persons who were known by those names while in mortality.

The endowment used to include the words, “You should consider yourselves respectively as if Adam and Eve.  …This is simply figurative so far as the man and woman are concerned.” The same could be said about other roles – which all represent truths, but the truths are not tied to personal identities. You are Adam. The endowment is about your life. Those true ministers who are sent are explained in D&C 130: 5, which include those who do (i.e. currently living individuals who have gained a message from the Father and Son to be delivered) or have (i.e., those who have left mortality and are returning as angelic, or resurrected, or translated individuals, who have gained a message from the Father and Son to be delivered) belonged to this earth.

 
 I should add: Without ministering of angels there is no longer any faith, as Moroni explained.  (Moro. 7: 37.) Only a fool would take their own message and portray it as coming from God. As Joseph Smith put it, “only fools trifle with the souls of men.” [I’ve noted, however, an endless abundance of fools here. The Historic Christian religions are filled with them.  …Unfortunately, they’ve crept into the restored faith, as well.] 
 
P.S.  A reminder – I do answer questions from time to time.  However, before you ask me a question, read or review the books I have written (there are 6 of them). Much of what is written in the books following The Second Comforter is written because of the questions I am asked most often. Therefore, I suspect you’ll find things in what I’ve already written which make it unnecessary to ask.

Winning isn’t everything

KSL News did a news piece involving my daughter. Here is a link for anyone interested. 

ksl.com – High 5: Coach teaches team that winning isn’t everything