Valiant

Those who receive a Terrestrial estate include “they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God.”  D&C 76: 79.  This means that they actually did have a testimony of Jesus, were on the right path, received the Gospel and accepted it, but failed to be “valiant” in their testimony.
I do not believe this means rigid, dogmatic, insistent or bellicose.  In fact, the religious people having these qualities have historically been the greatest persecutors of the few, humble followers of Christ in all generations.  
I believe this means they were willing to suffer much for the Lord.  To follow Him in meekness, gentleness, kindness, persuasion, and love unfeigned.  To bear the crosses of this world, and to return good for evil.  Valiance is measured by the patience you show to your fellowman when they say all manner of evil against you falsely, for His sake.  It is measured by the things you suffer willingly and without complaint.
 
It is not to get a reward in this life. Nor is it to be given acclaim, recognition, applause or chief seats.
 
It is to minister to others, rather than to be ministered unto.
 
When I think of the greatest examples of such conduct as would be truly described as “valiant,” I think of mothers and what they have done and do to bring, bear, love and raise children in this world.  Creation itself is renewed every time a new, innocent life is brought into this world. 

Why a teleprompter?

My wife and I were watching a KBYU broadcast of a speaker using a teleprompter to deliver a talk to students there.  What a remarkable difference there is between an extemporaneous talk, given from the heart, and someone reading a teleprompter. 
 
I think it is high tribute to President Obama that his use of a teleprompter is so casual and conversational that you cannot detect he is reading the comments.  He actually seems to be speaking spontaneously when he uses one.  That is a great gift, unfortunately not shared by many other public speakers. 
 
When a talk is read off a teleprompter and sounds like reading, the speaker sounds insincere, even robotic.  I wonder why we see them used so often anymore, even at BYU Education Week, among small audiences.  When you rob a speaker of spontaneity, you deprive the audience of a connection which might have been made.
 
I can’t read a talk.  I can try, but I always drift off into a conversation and leave the script behind.

Common consent

My car insisted it was 5:36 this morning as I drove my daughter to Seminary.  The Honda was not yet in on the collective conspiracy to sustain the loss of an hour by our common consent.  

My daughter got out the owner’s manual while we were driving and helped me convince the car to sustain the new hour.  Now the Honda is also in on the conspiracy by common consent to change our bearings in the universe.

It still gets light and dark as before, but we call it something different.  Happily, the Honda does not contradict that illusion anymore. 

We cannot control the reality in which we live, but we can use our collective agreements to pretend it is otherwise.  Now we awake and arise at a different time, but call it an hour later.  Common consent is a powerful thing.  It can be used to change how we look at time itself.

Christ’s touch

Ceremonial uncleanness under the law of Moses could be spread from the unclean to the person who came in contact with them.  Uncleanliness could be spread.  
 
A tradition grew among the Jews that the altar of the Temple could not be profaned, and that if an unclean person came into contact with it, the altar did not become unclean but instead the person coming into contact with the altar became clean.  We have two examples of persons relying upon this tradition in the case of Joab in the Old Testament and Zacharias in the New.  
 
Joab was to be killed by Solomon, and he knew he was to die.  To die in contact with the altar was to die clean, and so Joab fled to the tabernacle, took hold of the altar and was killed there.  The ones sent to kill him hesitated because they also knew they were killing a clean man, and had to be told a second time to kill him by Solomon. (See, 1 Kings 2: 28-34.)  Solomon did not care that Joab would die clean.  
 
In the case of Zacharias, his death is not recorded other than in a passing reference by Christ as He confronted the scribes and Pharisees.  (Matt. 23: 35.)  Joseph Smith said this reference was to John’s father.
 
In the case of Christ, the tradition had fulfillment.  He touched the unclean, but communicated cleanliness to them.  Whether it was the woman with an issue of blood, a leper, or the dead, touching them did not make Him unclean, rather it made those whom He touched clean.

Disgraced

Both the Republican leaders of the Utah Legislative Senate and House were forced to resign this year.  The Senate leader because of a DUI.  The Representative leader because of a sexual relationship with a minor many years ago, which he paid $150,000 campaign money to buy her silence.  In connection with the latter scandal, the church-owned Deseret News was aware of the sexual misconduct eight years ago, but kept silent until other news of the matter became public.
 
The problem with any political machine owning a state is the same everywhere.  It really does not matter if that machine controls the city of Chicago or the State of Utah, the result is the same.  People do “favors” for the insiders, and the public suffers as a result.
 
Utah’s reputation as “the reddest of red states” is well deserved.  The competition to fill these seats for the two involved in the scandals is internal to the Republican Party.  The result of doing so will not be unlike what has long been the case here in Utah, where only one side controls everything.
 
Both of these men were Latter-day Saints.  They are victims of the corrupt political domination every bit as much as the public has been.  Without a healthy opposition party, there is no real check upon misbehavior and excesses. 
 
I’ve always thought that opposing views and people speaking their mind is healthy.  Without some criticism of a person’s plans and ideas you simply get a chorus of “yes men” chanting how inspired or worthy or good all ideas are, no matter how flawed or foolish.  Utah’s two fallen leaders are “family men,” one of whom was known as a champion of “family values.”  It’s almost as if he had shopped with focus groups to know what words to use to get elected, without any regard to what was within his heart.
 
Now is the great day of opinion polling and focus group directed marketing, in which the substance of any group of political leaders is always hidden behind the carefully crafted message intended to market image. Indeed, image is everything in this day of deceit.
 
So, choose your leaders carefully.  They will all sound the same.  It will not be the vocabulary which will distinguish the evil and corrupt from the true and good.  It will only be what lies within them that will differ.

Daylight Savings

We celebrated Daylight Savings by neglecting to reset the clocks and missing Sacrament Meeting.  Apparently this was a widespread celebration in our ward, with less than half making it to the meeting on time.  I sense a family tradition in the making here.

Amos was no prophet’s son

In a vision given to Amos, the Lord showed him a plumb line. This was the method used to establish a straight wall.  (Amos 7: 7-9.)  When Amos delivered the message he received, the king threatened him.  Amos’ answer was succinct: “I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit; And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, go, prophesy unto my people Israel.  Now therefore hear thou the word of the Lord:  Thou sayest, Prophesy not against Israel, and drop not they word against the house of Isaac.  Therefore thus saith the Lord; They wife shall be an harlot in the city, and thy sons and they daughters shall fall by the sword, and they land shall be divided by line; and thou shalt die in a polluted land: and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land.”  (Amos 7: 14-17.) 

Prophets in the past have come from obscure places.  They quite often resisted delivering a message which the audience wanted to hear.  Instead they corrected the behavior of a fallen people.  There were no opinion polls, no focus groups to shape the message they delivered.  Their words corrected, jarred, condemned and served as a warning which could allow the faithful to change the path they were on whenever needed.  The Apostle Paul coined a term for teachers who taught doctrines that reassured those who ought to be condemned.  He said such people “heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.”  (2 Tim. 4: 3.)  I presume “heap” means they get quite a few of them.

I’m pleased we live in a day of living prophets again, and that we receive stern warnings from time to time from those who know the Lord.  Such occasions provide us all the opportunity to be warned, repent, change our ways and approach nearer the mark of the high calling of God, in Christ Jesus. (Philip. 3: 14.)

Shepherds of Israel

In Ezekiel 34: 11-12 it is written: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds: woe be unto the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?  Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock.”
 
This description could be applied with several layers of meaning.  However, the one I like best is the interpretation which relates “feeding” to teaching truths.  Shepherds were given the calling of teaching the “flocks” of Israel higher truths which would exalt them.  However, they instead focused their ministry upon things which were trivial, did not raise the inner lives of the “flocks,” and stirred up those who followed them into envy and strife.  These shepherds were unworthy, condemned with the pronouncement of “woe” upon them and warned by the prophet.
 
Fortunately, Ezekiel’s message goes on to promise that in the latter-days the Lord will “both search [His] sheep, and seek them out.  As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.” (34: 11-12.)  We are in that latter-day time now.  He is seeking.  But notice that throughout the description of His latter-day work, He alone takes credit for finding and feeding.  (34: 13-17.)
 
When He has gathered enough to establish again His kingdom, He will then make a new day in which “my servant David” will be the “one shepherd” over them, in that Millennial Day.  (34: 22-24.)
 
We’re supposed to be getting gathered now in anticipation of becoming numerous enough for there to be a Millennial King provided for us.  We’re supposed to be in contact with the Lord as He alone gathers us in this latter-day.  It is a glorious vision for which we should rejoice.

Explanation

Just a short word of explanation:

I write all the posts and the reply comments which go onto the blog.  However, I do not have time to maintain the site itself.  My wife does all the posting, editing, maintaining, etc.  She takes the comments I write and puts them into the blog itself.  Therefore, when you are reading anything on this site from me, you are reading what she has mechanically put into the site using the forms, etc. required to make it work.  I appreciate very much the time she devotes to doing this, because I simply cannot take that time at present to do it myself.

 
So, when you send comments they go to her at the blog site, as well as a designated email address, then, when appropriate, she forwards them to me.  I will respond to her and she will put them up onto the blog.

Concourses of angels

The object of this mortal existence is to develop faith.  We need adversity and a sense of isolation from God in order to develop the character necessary to be like God.  There is a test underway.  But it is conducted by a benign and friendly heavenly host, whose primary purpose is to develop in us a godly character and charity toward one another.
 
Men and women may see Christ in vision or in an appearance as a solitary personage.  But no person has ever seen God the Father without also seeing a host of others.  They are referred to in scriptures as a “heavenly host,” or “numerous angels,” or “concourses of angels.”  There is a reason that a company is always shown at the appearance of the Father.  You should look into the matter. Within the answer lies a great truth about God the Father.

True and living

The Lord’s reference to the Church in a revelation received on November 1, 1831 as “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (D&C 1: 30) was true for the following reasons:
 
First, the Church was established by revelation, visitations from angels, and delegation of authority.
 
Second, it was “living” because the authority and gifts were present and unfolding; and new scripture and revelations were being received.
 
Third, it would continue to grow in knowledge, light and truth as further ordinances and rites were restored.
Finally, it was “true” because it taught the doctrines which gave converts the tools with which they could grow in light and knowledge until the perfect day. (D&C 50: 24.)
 
The Lord’s description in 1831 is what we should aspire to have said about us still, today.  But, of course, that would require us to also be “true” and “living” in the same way as the Church in 1831. 

Different traditions, different interpretations

In Stephen’s testimony just prior to his martyrdom in Acts, he gives an account of Moses which does not appear in our version of the Old Testament.  In Stephen’s explanation, he attributes to Moses the knowledge that he was going to be a deliverer of Israel even before he killed the Egyptian.  (See Acts 7: 24-25.)  According to Stephen, Moses was frustrated that the Israelites failed to recognize him as their deliverer.
 
Our account instead tells us that Moses was called by God, to his surprise.  When called, Moses responded: “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?”  (Exo. 3: 11.)

This goes to show that there were different traditions reflected in the biblical accounts.  Just as there are references to scriptural books which we no longer possess.
 
The relevance of personal revelation, and the need for continuing revelation, remain apparent even if you want to understand the very scriptures we believe in.  Hence the almost immediate reaction of Joseph and Oliver to receiving the Holy Ghost and how scriptures took on new, even previously hidden meanings.  (See JS-H 1: 74.)
 
I was taught from the New Testament all my childhood by a mother who was a Baptist.  When hands were laid upon my head after baptism, I re-read the New Testament and thought it was a new book. 

Sampson

I teach the Young Men tomorrow and will be discussing Sampson’s life and example.  He conforms to one of the great patterns of men sent by the Lord to deliver His people.  That often repeated pattern includes:

– A couple or woman who cannot bear a child because of some infirmity,  age, infertility, barrenness, or lack of marriage.

– A promise made that a son will be sent.

– The woman/couple receive a son despite the infertility problem before.

– The son then comes and plays a role which alters the course of the Lord’s people.

This was the case with Abraham and Sarah, to whom Isaac came.  Manoah, to whom Sampson came.  Elkanah and Hannah, to whom Samuel came.  Zechariah and Elizabeth, to whom John was sent.  Mary and Joseph, to whom Jesus came.

There have been many others, but their stories are not always recorded or known.

Sampson was a Nazarite, the covenant terms of his dedication to the Lord is set out in Numbers 6.  Among other things, a Nazarite was not to cut his hair during the time of the covenant.  This was the reason Sampson’s hair cutting was so significant.  It represented the final break of the covenant.

Sampson was a Messianic figure.  He foreshadowed the Lord.

There is a statement in Matthew that Christ was to be called a “Nazarene.”  (Matt. 2: 23.)  That conflicts, however, with the later inquiry of Nathanael recorded in John 1: 46: “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”  The more likely statement Matthew was referring to was that the Lord was to be “called a Nazarite” meaning he was under the covenant in Numbers 6.

I’ve written a parable about the way in which Sampson’s life mirrored the Lord’s in Ten Parables.  

I believe that if we had a full account of the Lord’s life we would realize just how much Sampson’s life foreshadowed the Lord’s.  A hint of that is contained in that parable in Ten Parables.

The Lord is in charge

I was asked if there was a day coming when men/women will be required to condemn those in the church whose conduct does not measure up.  I responded:
There is certainly a day of separation coming.  Angels are already begging to begin that process.  The Lord has told them “not yet” but promised them it will happen “by and by” as His preparations continue.

The Lord is in charge.  We needn’t worry about how His purposes will all be fulfilled.  Patience with the larger picture is easier when we realize that for each of us the smaller, individual picture is what is important.  We have plenty to do individually to receive our invitation into the Church of the Firstborn.  As we do what is necessary to receive that invitation, then we will become more effective ministers of salvation for others.  Worrying about the salvation of all others before being saved ourselves is a needless thought.

The evil of this day is sufficient (Matt. 6: 34) because it really is enough to live well one day at a time.  Eternity will be composed of living well one day.  For God all is as one day.  (Alma 40: 8.) When we have done that, we are ready to receive eternity.  Until then, worrying about the larger and more chaotic picture of what is going on keeps us from changing the only environment over which we have any influence or control.  That is the environment of our hearts.

Accuser of our brethren

There is really no reason to complain about the church.  That is a role I would never want to assume.  Satan’s title is “the accuser of our brethren” (Rev. 12: 10).  Of what does he accuse them?  The answer is of all their natural failings, mistakes, shortcomings and errors.  We are all ample examples of such shortcomings.  No matter how good a life we may lead, we all fall short.  The answer to this problem is not to accuse others but to forgive them.  We cloak others in a robe of charity, and we in turn merit charity.
 
This is why Christ requires us to forgive all others.  We get forgiveness as we give forgiveness to others.  There is an extensive discussion of this in Come, Let Us Adore Him.  It is true doctrine.
 
I think avoiding the role of “accuser” and filling the role of patient forbearance with others’ shortcomings is the only wise course in life.