Repent and be humble

As the Apostle John closes his Gospel, he adds this comment: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written ever one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” (John 21: 25.)

In D&C 7’s headnote we read that Section 7 is a “translated version of the record made on parchment by John and hidden up.”

In D&C 93 we read, “John saw and bore record of the fulness of my glory, and the fulness of John’s record is hereafter to be revealed. And he bore record, saying: …” (D&C 93: 6-7.) From verses 7 through 18 it is an excerpt from John’s more complete, and as yet unrevealed account.

[Bruce R. McConkie concluded that this was the testimony of John the Baptist, and not John the Beloved. I have accepted Elder McConkie’s position in books I have written, however, I believe the account in Section 93 is more likely John the Beloved’s record. Since the issue is only a 3 to me on the earlier scale I proposed, I have simply accepted Elder McConkie’s view in what I have written.]

John likely had a good deal more to add concerning the Savior, but deliberately withheld it. Similarly, we have the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon as a reminder that not everything has been revealed to us which prior generations had given to them.

We ought to have a bit more humility about our “Restoration” than we have. The fact is, we have never been given what the ancients were trusted to possess. We have never been equal to them. We certainly aren’t now. Until we take seriously the Book of Mormon (which will require us to both repent and become more humble than we’ve ever been), we aren’t qualified to receive more. (See, e.g., 3 Ne. 26: 7-12; D&C 84: 54-58.)

Of what then do we have to boast?

Tithing

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a three-year system for collecting and spending tithes.
 
In the first year the funds are collected.
 
In the second year the funds remain invested while a budget is prepared for spending the tithing.
 
In the third year the funds are spent.
 
During the time when the funds are collected (first year), they are put to use in investments or deposits which yield a return.  Similarly, while they remain invested during the second year, they also yield a return.  When the third year arrives, and the funds are being spent on budgeted expenses, until the day they are spent they continue to collect interest or a return.
 
The amount of tithing collected in the first year is the amount designated “tithing” contributions.  This is the amount that is budgeted and spent in the third year.  All of the return on tithing yielded in the form of interest or return on investments is treated as “investment income” not tithing.
 
When the church spends “tithing” on temples, chapels, publications, etc. those monies are confined to the original amount collected as “tithing” only.  
 
When the church spends “investment money” those include the interest, return, etc. collected on the tithing money during the three year cycle from when originally collected until the time it is spent.  It also includes the returns on the returns as they accumulate over the years.
 
Therefore, when the church announces that a project (like the large reconstruction of downtown Salt Lake City) is not “tithing” but is “investment income” of the church, this is the distinction which is being made.

Boyd K. Packer’s testimony, part 2

Because of a question contained in the comments section under an earlier post, I am adding this explanation:
 
Elder Mark E. Peterson explained his view regarding the Second Comforter (a visitation by Jesus Christ with a believer) in conversations of his which have been repeated to me.  He had been asked about the issue, and explained his view to those who asked.  He believed that the Second Comforter experience was not available to Gentiles.  He quoted 3 Nephi 15: 20-24 as the basis for his view, which includes this statement by Christ to the Nephites at the time of His appearance at the Temple in Bountiful: “they understood not that the Gentiles should be converted through their preaching.  And they understood not that I said they shall hear my voice; and they understood me not that the Gentiles should not at any time hear my voice– that I should not manifest myself unto them save it be by the Holy Ghost.” 
 I interpret the above quote differently than Elder Peterson.  It is my view that this statement made by Christ was explaining His immediate post-resurrection appearances.  Those were limited to the scattered sheep of Israel.  These scattered sheep were unknown to each other, and therefore “lost” from each other’s knowledge.  However, they remained (just as the Nephites) in organized and believing bodies of scattered Israelites.  It was to these organized bodies alone that the risen Savior’s ministry extended immediately following His resurrection.
 
In contrast, in the latter-days the prophecies are to the contrary.  In the latter days, Christ’s appearances as the Second Comforter have been without regard to any limitation of who may be visited.  Now, those who believe who are identified with the Gentiles, are grafted into the branches of Israel and become part of the covenant people.  (See e.g., 1 Ne. 10: 14.) 
 
With respect to the Gentiles in our day, it is promised directly to them by the Lord, through Nephi, that His appearances will include Gentiles, in very deed:  “And it shall come to pass, that if the Gentiles shall hearken unto the Lamb of God in that day that he shall manifest himself unto them in word, and also in power, in very deed, unto the taking away of their stumbling blocks–”  (1 Ne. 14: 1.)  This is that day.

Just the commandments

According to the Moses account of the creation, at the time the commandment was given to “not eat of” the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the woman had not been created.  (Moses 3: 15-17.)  It was after giving Adam this commandment that the woman was created.  (Moses 3: 21-23.)
 
Eve’s knowledge of the commandment came from Adam, not from God. 

God’s commandment to Adam was: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat.  But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”  The restriction placed on Adam was to “NOT EAT” of the fruit of that tree.

 
Adam’s explanation to Eve was different.  Eve explained her understanding to the serpent when the serpent tempted her: “God hath said–Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.”  (Moses 4: 9.)  Eve’s understanding of the commandment varied from what had been given to Adam by the addition of the words: “NEITHER SHALL YE TOUCH OF IT.”
 
Adam added to the Lord’s commandment.  This additional precaution was the error which set the transgression in motion.  For when Eve saw the serpent touching the fruit and not dying, it lent credibility to the assertion that “ye shall not surely die.”  (Moses 4: 10.)  Being innocent, and therefore vulnerable to deception, Eve could not know she was confronting a lie.  Instead she saw with her own eyes that the commandment “not to touch” clearly did not result in death. 
 
One of the great lessons of the Moses account is that adding to the commandments of God, no matter how well intentioned, is going to lead to error if not tragedy.  We do as He asks.  Without adding to, nor subtracting from what He has bid us to do, we should follow what we are asked by Him.
 
We cannot improve on His commandments.  We cannot build a fence around His commandments by adding other precautions, gestures, supplements, or restrictions.  When we do that we produce excess, rigidity, unintended consequences and error.  We teach for doctrines the commandments of men.  Inevitably leading to a form of godliness without any power.  It’s an historic path to failure, diminishing power in the priesthood until it is gone altogether.  Detracting from our spiritual as well as physical health.  Removing our strength.  Corrupting our posterity, as they are distracted from what they should receive as they seek for what they cannot attain by “some other way.”
 
I rather like Moses’ account.

Pollutions

The great latter day “pollutions” referred to by Mormon in Mormon 8: 31 are the behaviors of men; not environmental waste.  Mormon identifies what those “pollutions” are:  “murders, and robbing, and lying,  and deceivings, and whoredoms, and all manner of abominations.” 
 
Those are harsh indictments.  But it becomes even more harsh when Mormon identifies US as the culprits.  He calls us “pollutions.”  He tells us we have polluted the “holy Church of God.”  That can only mean the Restored Church.  Sobering indeed.
 
“O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God?”  (Mormon 8: 38.)  Remember that Mormon saw us.  Jesus Christ showed Mormon US. He was in a unique position to accurately tell us what ails us. (Mormon 8: 35.)
 
So why do we think ourselves in good spiritual condition?  Why are we confident we aren’t condemned by the Lord?  Why do we presume that as Latter-day Saints we are safe.  Why do we think Mormon is talking to all those other churches; churches who will never read his book, and therefore cannot be warned by it?  It defies common sense, really.
 
We are in a lot of trouble.  He’s trying to help us.  How foolish to think we can line up beside him and point the finger away from ourselves.  He won’t let us do that, you know.  He’s pointing the finger right at us.

General Conference

April General Conference is upon us.  I’m hoping to be able to see or hear some of it while at an out-of-state baseball tournament set for this weekend.  
 
We have a tradition of attending General Priesthood meeting at the BYU Marriott Center.  I’m worried that I won’t be back in time for that session.  I always like to attend with a larger group, and since you don’t need tickets to attend at BYU, I like going there.  All my sons grew up with this tradition. 
 
If you’re in Utah County or Salt Lake County, I recommend it.  Outside of the Conference Center itself, I think it is the largest single body of priesthood attending that session of conference.
 

The Lamb and the Lion

There is only one place in scripture where the Lord is identified as both the “Lamb” and the “Lion” in successive verses.  You can find it in Revelation 5: 5-6.  In verse 5 He is referred to as “the Lion of the tribe of Juda.”  In verse 6 He is called “a Lamb as it had been slain.”

The moment when the “Lamb” and the “Lion” lay down together is the time of His great return.  He is both.  A Lamb to those who are prepared at His coming.  A Lion to those who are not prepared, for whom judgment will be poured out.

When you see that painting of the Lamb and Lion lying down together (we have one in our Stake Center), you are seeing the two great symbols of the Lord’s Millennial reign.

The Lamb and the Lion

There is only one place in scripture where the Lord is identified as both the “Lamb” and the “Lion” in successive verses.  You can find it in Revelation 5: 5-6.  In verse 5 He is referred to as “the Lion of the tribe of Juda.”  In verse 6 He is called “a Lamb as it had been slain.”

The moment when the “Lamb” and the “Lion” lay down together is the time of His great return.  He is both.  A Lamb to those who are prepared at His coming.  A Lion to those who are not prepared, for whom judgment will be poured out.

When you see that painting of the Lamb and Lion lying down together (we have one in our Stake Center), you are seeing the two great symbols of the Lord’s Millennial reign.

The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl

When I was in 9th grade the teacher asked me to read a short story aloud to the class while she went to the office.  She asked that I do it because the class would likely listen if I were the reader, but if I were not then they would be out of control.  Mostly because I was not a good listener at that age.

In any event, I read the story aloud. Despite the intervening years I still recall the thing.  It was by Ray Bradbury and was titled The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl.  The character in the story killed someone, and was cleaning up fingerprints from the murder scene.  The cleaning went on as the story was narrated, and at some point it became apparent that the character had gone insane.
The story ended with the police coming and finding the person still there cleaning up fingerprints. The cleaning included the fruit at the bottom of the bowl.  Fruit that had never been touched.  The character was simply mad.
I think of that phrase whenever I see something completely mad.  Particularly when I see behavior which is inexplicable.  I’ve had a few “fruit at the bottom of the bowl” moments while on the High Council.  I try not to have them while at home.
It just isn’t necessary (or possible) to micro-manage your children’s lives.  Nor is it wise to try to micro-manage millions of other people’s lives.  Whether as a parent, as a government leader, business leader, or as a church leader, Joseph Smith’s advice is still timely.  He said the way he managed the church was to “teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves.”  I’d like to see a return to that.  In all parts of daily life.

“dried up with thirst”

Isaiah prophesied about the effect of losing knowledge about God.  He wrote: “Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.”  (Isa. 5: 13.)
 
This is an apt description of people when they are not “fed” with truth and light. 
 
In contrast, Nephi wanted the Latter-day followers of Christ to have a “feast” to consume while toiling in this fallen, difficult time.  But Nephi notes the “feast” will come to us from hearing the words of “angels” and not from the “arm of flesh.”  Nephi taught us: “Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ.  Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.”  (2 Ne. 32: 3.)
 
Whether we are to “feast” or be “famished” is up to us.  Seek, ask, knock: it will be opened.  Stay content, do not ask, seek, or knock: you will remain dried up with thirst.

God of Truth

I was asked about the meaning of the statement in scripture that “God cannot lie.”  It is an important concept and it has a highly specific application.  I have dealt with it at length in the book Beloved Enos.  I would suggest reading the discussion there. If there are still questions, send me another inquiry.

Cycles

I’ve been impressed with Isaiah the last few weeks.  His words are timeless.  He describes patterns which recur whenever people seek to follow God.  It is little wonder Nephi chose to adopt many of Isaiah’s words to describe what he (Nephi) had seen in vision.

I’m struck by how often one prophet will adopt the words of another prophet as his own.  One of the great moments in scripture is when Jacob has his people come up to the temple, promising to give them a prophecy.  When they arrive, he reads them the words of Zenos, found in Jacob Chapter 5.  Then, after this long recitation of Zenos’ words by Jacob, he adds the following:
 

“As I said unto you that I would prophesy, behold, this is my prophecy– that the things which this prophet Zenos spake, concerning the house of Israel, in the which he likened them unto an unto a tame olive tree, must surely come to pass.”  (Jacob 6: 1.)  That’s it.  His great prophecy:  What Zenos said will happen!
I like that.  Succinct.  No messing around.  Just telling these folks that this prophecy he read from another prophet was from God.  
It’s a profound message.  We endlessly lose light.  Then assignments come to prophets to bring back a little (or a lot) of it, and they restore again.  We’ve been in the process of restoring truth since Adam.  This is because we have also been in the process of discarding truth since Adam.  It’s a race between the discarding and the restoring.  Mostly discarding seems to win.

Spring baseball

Alta lost to Lone Peak in a snow flurry on Friday.  They have a another game set for Tuesday at Alta. It is supposed to rain.  It will be interesting to see how much different snow and rain make the game.
 
There was one pop-up in the infield by Lone Peak which went “major league” height – nearly out of sight.  In the snow, the Alta shortstop called for the ball, backing off the second-baseman.  As the ball descended, the wind and snow pushed it and the shortstop drifted with the ball.  By the time it came down, the shortstop had moved within twenty feet of first base.  He actually missed the catch.  Between the snow and wind the play was anything but routine.
 
Both teams played in the same conditions.  So there’s no excuses for the outcome.  But I have to admit, I was grateful when it ended (despite the loss) because the weather made watching it so unpleasant.
 
I’m hoping the rain-play on Tuesday will be more tolerable to sit through.
 
Thankfully, state playoffs are generally played in warm, dry weather; and when you get far enough along, also on a neutral field.

President Packer’s Testimony

I have enormous respect for President Boyd K. Packer.  To me he is one of the great lights in the church.  I know he had a role in the excommunication of seven “intellectuals” years ago, and that controversy remains today.  One of those affected was a fellow who attended law school at the same time as I did.  I feel for both him and President Packer.  I do not feel inclined to criticize him, nor have I.  I do wish the breach between my friend and the church were healed.

President Packer has given many important talks in his career.  Perhaps one of the most significant was given in the October, 1977 General Conference.  In it he made the following explanation of his testimony and of the testimonies of General Authorities.  He is speaking of the time when he was first interviewed to be called as a General Authority by President :
President McKay explained that one of the responsibilities of an Assistant to the Twelve was to stand with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as a special witness and to bear testimony that Jesus is the Christ. What he said next overwhelmed me: “Before we proceed to set you apart, I ask you to bear your testimony to us. We want to know if you have that witness.” 
I did the best I could. I bore my testimony the same as I might have in a fast and testimony meeting in my ward. To my surprise, the Brethren of the Presidency seemed pleased and proceeded to confer the office upon me. 
That puzzled me greatly, for I had supposed that someone called to such an office would have an unusual, different, and greatly enlarged testimony and spiritual power. 
It puzzled me for a long time until finally I could see that I already had what was required: an abiding testimony in my heart of the Restoration of the fulness of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith, that we have a Heavenly Father, and that Jesus Christ is our Redeemer. I may not have known all about it, but I did have a testimony, and I was willing to learn. 
I was perhaps no different from those spoken of in the Book of Mormon: “And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not” (3 Nephi 9:20; emphasis added). 
Over the years, I have come to see how powerfully important that simple testimony is. I have come to understand that our Heavenly Father is the Father of our spirits (see Numbers 16:22; Hebrews 12:9; D&C 93:29). He is a father with all the tender love of a father. Jesus said, “For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God” (John 16:27). 
Some years ago, I was with President Marion G. Romney, meeting with mission presidents and their wives in Geneva, Switzerland. He told them that 50 years before, as a missionary boy in Australia, late one afternoon he had gone to a library to study. When he walked out, it was night. He looked up into the starry sky, and it happened. The Spirit touched him, and a certain witness was born in his soul. 
He told those mission presidents that he did not know any more surely then as a member of the First Presidency that God the Father lives; that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Only Begotten of the Father; and that the fulness of the gospel had been restored than he did as a missionary boy 50 years before in Australia. He said that his testimony had changed in that it was much easier to get an answer from the Lord. The Lord’s presence was nearer, and he knew the Lord much better than he had 50 years before. 
There is the natural tendency to look at those who are sustained to presiding positions, to consider them to be higher and of more value in the Church or to their families than an ordinary member. Somehow we feel they are worth more to the Lord than are we. It just does not work that way!
It would be very disappointing to my wife and to me if we supposed any one of our children would think that we think we are of more worth to the family or to the Church than they are, or to think that one calling in the Church was esteemed over another or that any calling would be thought to be less important. 
Recently, one of our sons was sustained as ward mission leader. His wife told us how thrilled he was with the call. It fits the very heavy demands of his work. He has the missionary spirit and will find good use for his Spanish, which he has kept polished from his missionary days. We also were very, very pleased at his call. 
What my son and his wife are doing with their little children transcends anything they could do in the Church or out. No service could be more important to the Lord than the devotion they give to one another and to their little children. And so it is with all our other children. The ultimate end of all activity in the Church centers in the home and the family. 
As General Authorities of the Church, we are just the same as you are, and you are just the same as we are. You have the same access to the powers of revelation for your families and for your work and for your callings as we do. 
It is also true that there is an order to things in the Church. When you are called to an office, you then receive revelation that belongs to that office that would not be given to others. 
No member of the Church is esteemed by the Lord as more or less than any other. It just does not work that way! Remember, He is a father—our Father. The Lord is “no respecter of persons.”
We are not worth more to the onrolling of the Lord’s work than were Brother and Sister Toutai Paletu‘a in Nuku‘alofa, Tonga; or Brother and Sister Carlos Cifuentes in Santiago, Chile; or Brother and Sister Peter Dalebout in the Netherlands; or Brother and Sister Tatsui Sato of Japan; or hundreds of others I have met while traveling about the world. It just does not work that way.
And so the Church moves on. It is carried upon the shoulders of worthy members living ordinary lives among ordinary families, guided by the Holy Ghost and the Light of Christ, which is in them. 
 
I bear witness that the gospel is true and that the worth of souls is great in the sight of God—every soul—and that we are blessed to be members of the Church. I have the witness that would qualify me for the calling I have. I’ve had it since I met the First Presidency those many years ago. I bear it to you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” 

I believe President Packer means it when he says his testimony was “the same as I might have in a fast and testimony meeting in my ward.”  When someone in a position of Church leadership has an audience with Christ, we hear about it.  Joseph Smith told us.  Oliver Cowdrey told us.  Sidney Rigdon told us.  So did President John Taylor, President Joseph F. Smith and David B. Haight.  Their calling is to bear a witness of Him.  When they have an actual audience, I believe they tell us.

The calling of the Twelve is to “bear witness” of Christ.  (D&C 107: 23.)  Because of that calling, they must proclaim they have a “witness” even if it could be more correctly described as a testimony born of the Spirit.  I accept their “witness” of Christ and believe it is authoritative.  However, I do not read into their testimony what they do not put there themselves.  

I accept the “witness” of the living Apostles, although it is a rare exception when one has an audience with Christ.  In recent talks Elder Scott has gone to some length to testify and describe his own spiritual experiences.  I trust in them.  I trust him.  I believe him to be an Apostle.  It is not necessary for an Apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to have a personal audience with Christ.

Years ago Elder Mark Peterson said he did not think it possible for a gentile to receive an audience with Christ.  He thought that was confined to pure-blooded Israelites.  Since he was a gentile apostle to a gentile church, he did not believe it possible for him to receive such an audience.  As I understand it, that is the general view among the brethren.  The charge given by Elder Oliver Cowdrey to the Twelve (telling them they must receive an audience with Christ for their ordination to be complete) was discontinued in 1911 by President Smith.  It was discontinued because so few had received that audience.  But that does not make these men any less apostles.

I trust President Packer.  I accept his testimony.  I believe it is enough to qualify him for the work, just as President McKay told him.  I am impressed with his humility in explaining his testimony in General Conference.  It increases my trust in him as a servant of the Lord.