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3 Nephi 14: 3-5:

“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?  Or how wilt thou say to thy brother: Let me pull the mote out of thine eye—and behold, a beam is in thine own eye?  Thou hypocrite, first cast the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
 
The defect in judging is the position from which we proceed. We are blind. We have too many subjective problems in our background. Our training, education, culture, presumptions, prejudices, “things we just know to be true”, ignorance, preoccupations and impatience interfere with our perceptions. We act on errors and reach wrong conclusions. We measure with defective tools, then decide the matter from the wrong measure.
 
Christ is reminding us that whenever we are inclined to correct another person, more often than not, we suffer from whatever defect we see in others. This is why we notice it. We see it because it is really us. We are sensitive to the problem because we own the problem.
 
First, whenever we see something amiss in another, start with the realization that we are seeing ourselves. Start inside. Ask, “why does this bother me?” “Am I really seeing myself in a mirror?” Then be grateful you saw another person display your problem. You now know what is wrong with you. Forgive them, fix you.
 
The tendency to withhold patience is more often than not because their “mote” excites your notice through your own “beam.” A “mote” is a speck, a bit of sawdust. A “beam” is a board. Yours is the greater defect. For in you is not only the defect, but the tendency to judge others harshly. Both are wrong.
 
When you have at last purged the defect, struggled to overcome and conquer the temptation or tendency, perhaps the price you pay to do so will make you humble enough to assist another. Not from the position as judge and condemner, but from the position of one who can help. When you “see clearly,” then you may be able to “cast the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” For now you see him as your “brother.” And in a kindly and affectionate manner you may act to reclaim him. Not as a judge, but as a brother.
 
This is a continuing petition to make things better. But the only way you make them better by starting inside. It is not for you to work on others, nor move outside your own range of defects, until you have first fixed what you lack. When you can proceed with charity to assist others to overcome what you have overcome yourself, then it is appropriate to approach your “brother” in kindness to help. Until then, stop judging and start removing “beams” from yourself.
 
Brilliant and peaceful. Revolutionary and kind. Christ is the ultimate True Teacher. He could teach such things because He was such things. His disciples will, in turn, take His teachings and His example and do likewise.

3 Nephi 14: 1-2

 
And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he turned again to the multitude, and did open his mouth unto them again, saying: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
 
This reiterates the doctrine in the Lord’s instruction on prayer. Your judgment of others will become the basis for your own judgment by the Father. Apply mercy to receive mercy. Apply forgiveness to merit forgiveness. Act harshly to receive harsh treatment. Show strict judgment, and receive it in return. It is the perfect balance. What you send out returns to you. It is karma. The words are right out of Christ’s own mouth.
 
More importantly, notice how He transitions from speaking to His twelve about their new, spontaneous ministry into the public judgment of what was to follow? In other words, if these thoughts are related, (and I think they are) then He is saying His twelve disciples may take a while to get to the needs of those assembled. Therefore, be patient. This new lifestyle for the disciples will be difficult on them. In order to receive a reward, those who are being ministered to need to bear patiently with the ensuing efforts of the twelve.
 
This was to be a new community formed among these people. In it, there will be servants called to minister (the twelve), who will be limited in what they are able to do. They will be needy, dependent, and vulnerable. They will have needs. Supply the needs without being put off by what they are not able to do. View them with compassion as they seek to do as they have been told. Don’t withhold substance, food, raiment, or housing from them because you are unhappy with what little they have been able to do. Show them kindness.
 
The statement is broader than that, of course. It implies similar patience with everyone. But the point that this practice should begin with these twelve ministers ought not be lost.
 
The context of “judge not that ye be not judged” is framed by the statement that “with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” We do “judge” one another because we must. But the judgment should err on the side of forgiving. It should err in favor of trusting motives to be pure, and intent to be good. We should be generous with our gratitude, evaluations and suppositions. When we know someone is misbehaving, we should make allowances for their shortcomings, forgive them before they ask, and impute no retribution because of their offensive conduct.

This does not make us better than another, it makes us whole. It allows the Lord to forgive us for our own, much greater offenses against Him. For when we are generous, we merit His Divine generosity. It is how we are healed. It is the means for our own salvation. Instead of thinking ourselves better than an offender, we should look upon them with gratitude for they provide the means to obtain salvation– provided we give them forgiveness from all their offenses. This is why we should rejoice and be exceedingly glad. (3 Nephi 12: 10-12.) They enable us to obtain salvation by despitefully using us, as long as we measure them by the same standard that allows God to forgive us.

 
What perfect symmetry: You measure to others using instrument that will be used by God to measure back to you. So your ready forgiveness is how God will treat you. All those grudges can be replaced with petitions to God to forgive those who abused you. As you lay aside all those sins against you, committed by others, it will purge from you all your own sins.
 
Straight and narrow indeed…. But oddly appropriate and altogether within your control.

3 Nephi 13: 34


“Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient is the day unto the evil thereof.”

This is the child’s view of life. A child is perpetually in the “now” and does not regret yesterdays or plan tomorrows. It is all about what happens to you at the moment.


Each day’s challenge is the end goal. In addition to severing the disciples from regular income, regular work for support, dependence on those to whom they minister for bread, drink, shelter and clothing, the Lord adds to their burden the heavy responsibility to “take no thought for the morrow.” For them their ministry is to be moment to moment. No planning and rehearsals. No staging and frantic preparation. No three-year budgets. Only now. Forever only now.
It is an interesting position Christ wants to put His chief disciples into. It forces us to carefully consider why He would do so?


Is it to keep them humble?


Is it to prevent pride and arrogance?


Is it to require they remain in constant direct touch with at least some of those over whom they minister?


Is it to keep them keenly aware of the necessity of relying on Him?


If they cannot plan for more than the day’s events, how can they plan a busy travel schedule to take them all over the world? Is that somehow built in already to the “sufficient is the day unto the evil thereof?”


What kind of life would this create for His disciples chosen to minister to others? Would they ever be able to minister to more than just a few at a time under this system? If they are limited to serving only a few at a time, then how would an entire church receive benefit from this kind of spontaneous ministry? What kind of changes would that make in how a church is run and organized?


Just how impractical do we think this manner of organizing would be in a multi-national, multi-lingual, 13 million member church? If it is impractical, should the Lord’s teachings be revised or should we change our way of thinking about His church and system?


If this were to be implemented, how would you go about organizing it? Would you divide the world into twelfths? Within that division, would you expect the disciple assigned to “drop in” to stake conferences and ward meetings unannounced? Would that prevent central planning and budgeting by the chief disciples? Would it force the Presiding Bishop’s office to take concerns for all temporal concerns and budgets? Why would letting an Aaronic Priesthood office be concerned with temporal affairs and freeing up Melchizedek Priesthood for spiritual concerns be an unwelcome change?


Would this fundamentally transform the role of leadership? How? Would it be chaos, or would it be an improvement? Why?


Just how dumb an idea is this that Christ is teaching to the chosen twelve? If not dumb, then it is at least of limited practicality when growth in numbers and locations makes it burdensome? Was Christ’s teaching here short-sighted? Did He fail to make provisions for the modern church, with its global spread and cross-language needs and budgets?


When the Book of Mormon was restored, this sermon was restored to us. When restored, it clarified how this portion of the sermon was addressed to the presiding twelve disciples. Was there a Divine purpose or message behind it? Should it be considered as meaningful to us today? Christ lived an interesting life. He more or less followed this counsel, though in truth He understood and fulfilled the prophecies concerning Himself. Yet, throughout it all, He also seemed to surrender control to the Father in everything. (See, e.g., Mark 13: 32.) He commented on how spontaneous a life He lived, and how unpredictable things were when following the Spirit. (John 3: 6-8.)

3 Nephi 13: 33

3 Nephi 13: 33:

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

What comes first? Why?

How can “all these things” then “be added unto you?” What are “these things?” Is it the food, raiment, etc.?

Why would the Lord want the disciples to first seek the kingdom of God before promising that the things would be “added unto” them?

If they don’t first seek the kingdom, then will things not be added to them?

What is “the kingdom of God?” Is there a difference between:
-The Church of Jesus Christ
-The Kingdom of God
-Zion?

What is the “kingdom of God” if it is not the church? When is the “kingdom” to be found? What is necessary for it to exist? Joseph Smith taught: “What constitutes the Kingdom of God? an administrator who has the power of calling down the oracles of God, and subjects to receive those oracles no matter if there is but 3, 4, or 6 there is the kingdom of God.” (William Clayton Journal entry January 22, 1843, capitalization as in original.) If we accept Joseph’s definition, why would the disciples be encouraged to “seek the kingdom of God?”

What does the clarification that the “kingdom of God” should be sought first tell us about everything else?

Has the “kingdom of God” been here before now? Is it here now? What does it mean to call down the oracles of God?

Does man control this or does God?

What is man’s role in establishing the “kingdom of God?” Is man’s role confined to “seeking first” for it to come? How would man seek it?

If you want to “seek the kingdom of God” how would you go about doing so?

What does your “seeking” have to do with the return of the “kingdom of God?”

The Lord will not bring again Zion without there being a people who are prepared to receive what He intends to bring. How can you do that?

3 Nephi 13: 26-32

3 Nephi 13: 26-32:


“Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?  Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?  And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin;  And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these.  Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, even so will he clothe you, if ye are not of little faith.  Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?  For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.”



Christ illustrates His teaching of how His disciples are to be supported by analogy after analogy. He likens the principle of how His disciple-ministers are to be supported to:


-Fowls of the air, provided for by God.
-Lilies of the field, whose glorious appearance comes from God.
-Grass of the field, which are adorned by natural beauty from God.


Inherent in these analogies is the message that so long as fowls shall fly, this principle ought to be followed. So long as lilies remain on the earth growing wild, this manner of supporting His disciples ought to be followed. So long as grass shall be here, this principle should be followed.


The hopelessness of man’s presumed independence from God is stressed in His statement that by taking thought none of us “can add one cubit unto his stature.” Our lives are not ours. They belong to Him. We have no independence from Him. We are NOT self-existent beings. We borrow all we are and have from Him. Even, as it turns out, the dust from which we are made belongs to Him. (Mosiah 2: 20-25.)


If God gives us air to breathe, power to exist, the capacity to move, and sustains all of us from moment to moment, then how little faith is required to rely on Him to provide His disciples with food and raiment?


The analogy to Solomon is also telling. “Solomon, in all his glory” is a useful way to think of the greatest man can hope for himself. The glory of Solomon was legendary. The Queen of Sheba came and marveled at what she saw in his court. (1 Kings 10: 1-13.) This was splendor, wealth and power indeed! However, Christ reminds us that these man-made marvels are nothing compared with the beauty He can supply those who are “not of little faith.” He can cover a man in glory indeed. Not as the world defines glory, but the real glory. (See D&C 93: 28, 36.)


The purpose of putting a man in such a dependent state before God is not to find out whether God can take care of him. God already knows what a man needs before he should even ask. But the man will, by becoming so dependent upon God, acquire a broken heart and a contrite spirit, always quick to ask, quick to listen, quick to do. Vulnerability makes a man strong in spirit. Security and wealth make a man incorrectly believe in his independence from God.


He wants His disciples to be dependent upon Him. He wants them praying, and then grateful to Him for what He provides. He wants them, in a word, to become holy.


Such a system would be impractical in a post-industrial society like ours, wouldn’t it?

3 Nephi 13: 25

3 Nephi 13: 25:

“And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he looked upon the twelve whom he had chosen, and said unto them: Remember the words which I have spoken. For behold, ye are they whom I have chosen to minister unto this people. Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?”

The preceding teachings were given to all who were there. Christ changes the audience at this point, and addresses the twelve whom He had given power to baptize. To them He addresses the admonition: “Remember the words which I have spoken.” These are two things: First, a Divine admonition to follow. Second, an empowerment to make it possible to do as He asks. Without both, they would have been unable to preserve the record of the teachings. As will become apparent from the text, they will later meet following His ascension and reduce the words taught to a transcript that all twelve will be able to present to the audience that assembles the next day.
The reason these same twelve who had power to baptize were given power to “remember the words [Christ] had spoken” was because they were “chosen to minister unto this people.” When Christ chooses a minister to speak for Him, He enables them to accomplish the mission or ministry assigned to them. (See, e.g., D&C 132: 59.) They receive His support. That makes them more than equal to the assignment given them.
It is the chosen twelve, and not the the multitude, who are told to “take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what he shall drink.” It is those who are to minister who are freed from the earthly cares of providing for their needs. Their lives are to be given over to ministering to others, and not to work for their support. The Lord intends to provide for them.
This is a very narrow group to whom this promise is made. It does not include others in the audience.  For the rest, we are required to provide for our families.  If we fail to provide for them by laboring for their support, we have denied the faith. (1 Tim. 5: 8.)  Wives are to be supported by their husband’s labor.  (D&C 83: 2.) Children are to be supported by their parents. (D&C 83: 4.) This requires all to labor. (D&C 42: 42.) But as to these twelve, their labor is the ministry and their support will come from the Lord.
It is a small thing for the Lord to provide for His ministers. To Him property is nothing. (D&C 117: 4.) He can provide for His ministers even if there is no apparent means to accomplish it. (See, e.g., 1 Kings 17: 8-16.) The Lord has provided food for thousands when necessary. (Luke 9: 13-17.)  Providing food for His people when needed is within His Divine power. (Ex. 16: 11-31.)
Why would the Lord give this commandment to the twelve? Why would He do it publicly? What responsibility does that impose upon the twelve?  What responsibility does it impose upon the audience? If the twelve today were to be supported by only food given them by believers, clothes provided by followers, material given through donations from those to whom they ministered, would it be different than the system we have in place today? Would that be different from tithing money used for salaries paid them today? Would the supplemental income from book sales, service on boards of directors (which has been greatly reduced and was planned to be entirely eliminated) fit into the system Christ describes here? [President Monson’s General Conference talk about his wife’s surgery a while back included a reference to paying taxes. She was emerging from an eighteen day coma and her first words to him were about failing to pay the “fourth quarter income tax payment.” (Abundantly Blessed, Ensign, May 2008.) These kinds of “quarterly income taxes” are self-employment taxes and would arise either from book royalties or service on boards of directors. His paycheck from the Church would have withholding and would not require quarterly deposits.]

Is the different, more simple and very direct connection between the disciples and those to whom they ministered of value today? Is our modern sophisticated society unable to provide similar support today? Is Christ’s teaching on this point outdated? If it is, then can we disregard other portions also as outdated? How do we decide what to discard and what to keep?

3 Nephi 13: 24

“No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.”

This is Christ’s great division. We all have but one Master. Choose carefully.
This is another way to describe the “jealous God” of the Old Covenant.  (Ex. 34: 14.) Since He requires everything of you, any holding back is infidelity to Him.
Christ is reaffirming God’s primacy. Your affection for Him cannot be shared. It simply can’t be done. When attempted, it shows you “hate” or “despise” Him, because when you share your fidelity, you reject His direction.
It is this principle that justified the earlier prophets in likening Israel to a “harlot” or a “whore” when she worshiped other gods. (See, eg. Jeremiah 3: 6; Hosea 9: 1; Judges 8: 33.) It is not possible to be converted to the Lord and not be devoted to Him.
All of what is “Mammon” is subordinate to God. The Lord’s ways require the things you have in this life to be used for His purposes and according to His desire. His commandments cover all things, and you cannot divorce your temporal concerns from His teachings. (D&C 29: 35.)
Devotion to Him requires that what you do, say, and think be aligned with Him. Conversion is a progressive process where you develop to be more like Him throughout life. You can’t just “get a testimony” and then not be completely converted to Him. He expects to completely remake you. This sermon is the blueprint for the new creation you are to become.
This statement deals in absolutes because the Lord’s way is the way of absolutes. He can accept nothing less than all. The adversary knows this and is content with getting even a little from you. The adversary knows that a little compromise is everything when compromising your faithfulness to the Lord.

The world will accept anything half-hearted. The world knows you love it, if you will just give in a little to its persuasion. Contamination is contamination and will eventually poison you. So any degree of unrighteousness is enough to please the world. For the Lord, however, it is all or nothing. It is complete fidelity to Him which alone will satisfy.  Keeping one foot in the world, while giving lip service to Him will never meet the requirements for loving Him. (D&C 1: 31.)

Those who think the Lord is announcing a new, easier system to replace the earlier, more demanding Law of Moses do not understand His teachings. This is far more exact and moves the battleground into your heart. He is asking you to transform the soul. He is asking you to become like Him. This is not outward observances. However troubling and wearisome those may have been, they were at least something that could be done without battling in your heart with motive, intent and desires. Here Christ wants you to conform everything, even your desires, to be instruments of your salvation.

This is a call to a much higher way of life. It is a much deeper and more meaningful way to approach God. It is inside you.

Blog To Remain

I intend to leave this blog up. I will be taking the first year’s postings and putting them into book form. The book format will be chronological order, rather than the reverse chronological order as it appears on the blog.  Look for it no sooner than April or May of 2011.   

Hopefully, having it available as a book will spare me thousands of conversations. Hope you will all enjoy.

3 Nephi 13: 22-23

3 Nephi 13: 22-23:

“The light of the body is the eye; if, therefore, thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.  But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If, therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”
 
The “eye” is better put “your mind’s eye.” It is what you meditate on, what fills you. You choose what you fill yourself with by what you give attention. What you notice is what you care to notice.

Christ’s admonition is troubling because the cares of this world distract us all. They impose upon us all.  But Christ advises us to search endlessly for light.

The difference between filling yourself with light and filling yourself with darkness is what thoughts you entertain.

Everything begins in the mind. Words and works flow from thoughts. (Alma 12: 14.) While all three will be judged, it is in the mind where all else begins.

It is not enough to attempt to avoid evil by memorizing hymns. You can spend as many wasted hours humming hymns as singing rock songs.  Neither one will particularly elevate you. Meditating on doctrine, pressing understanding, pondering deeply and engaging the mysteries of God are what will fill the mind with light.

There is so much in our faith that distracts and substitutes for light and truth. Think about these verses and filling your mind with light and truth:  And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness. That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that lightgroweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day. And again, verily I say unto you, and I say it that you may know the truth, that you may chase darkness from among you;” (D&C 50: 23-25.)

The Psalms were quoted by Christ more than any other scripture. They are filled with truths worth meditation.

Having darkness within you does not require an effort to be deliberately vile. The cares of this world, and coping with Babylon is all that is needed to keep you from acquiring light. Finding light requires a deliberate effort to notice it and take it in.

When we are filled with light the heavens notice. In fact, it is the light within us that heaven notices even from afar.