Month: October 2010
When the message comes from a true prophet, you can know the message, along with those who heed it, and the messenger will survive the burning which is to come, because they are purged by repentance and can abide the day of wrath.
3 Nephi 14: 13-14:
“Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, which leadeth to destruction, and many there be who go in thereat; Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
This is re-affirmation of man’s tendency to reject the right way. The narrowness of it requires surrender of the selfish, parting with pride and sacrifice of self-will.
Many prefer their ignorance to light. Therefore, they will not draw toward the light when it is revealed to them. Without drawing closer to the light they cannot comprehend what the Lord is teaching. It makes no sense to them. For it requires light to comprehend light. Therefore unless a person is willing to increase in light they are left in darkness and unable to apprehend any of what saves them. It remains a mystery to them.
The way to darkness is broad and easy. It requires no effort. It welcomes you. It tempts you with its ease. Because there are “many who go in thereat” it is also popular. When, therefore, you take opinion polling and focus group testing as the measure of a proposition you are only joining to the wide, broad way which will be popular.
Truth challenges. It requires change. It informs you of your faults and mistakes. It is difficult because you are called to rise above what the world is doing, what the world is saying and what the world accepts as good and true. This tendency to want to be popular can twist you away from truth quicker than any other corrupting influence here. This is why Nephi cautioned about the latter-day churches which crave popularity and acceptance. (1 Nephi 22: 23.)
There will only be a “few who find it.” Even in the day in which we live, the measure will always be “few.” Not in a relative sense, but in an absolute sense. Few. Period. Only a small number.
Looking down through the ages, speaking with the vision of a prophet, the number of those who, living in the last days would have the Father’s name upon their forehead, were only 144,000. (Rev. 7: 3-4.) Though from all ages the number would be in the millions. (Rev. 7: 9, 13-14.) Still, we live in the time when a living number who are prepared for the return of Christ will be but few in an absolute sense. (D&C 77: 11.) Even if they have wives and children, yet the number will remain but few.
It is foolish to believe the conditions for salvation are any different for you than they were for Enoch, Moses, Abraham, Isaiah, Elijah, Peter or Joseph. This Gospel is the same. Always and in every generation it is the same. The odds are that but few of those who are living will go in thereat. All the opinion polling to test for popular acceptance of a message cannot deliver a message from God to mankind. It can only entice you to the broad, wide gate “which leadeth to destruction.”
The Lord could not be more plain. The teachings which preceded this statement are His invitation. Here He gives His prophetic description of the audience’s response. From all those who will read or hear His words, every soul will be accountable. From among those, like you, who are accountable, there will be but “few who find it.”
Why is that so? What is so important about the world’s acceptance that a fool will treasure it before their own salvation? What can the world offer in exchange that you tempt you to give your soul? (Matt. 16: 26.) How many will lament when the summer is passed, the harvest has come, that their soul has not been saved. (D&C 45: 2.)
This is a sobering remark by the forgiving Lord. He invites all to come to Him. But He is realistic about how few will respond. It requires repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost and living by every word which comes from Him. It is strait and therefore narrow. But it lies in a straight path before you. You can know you are on it when you encounter the gate-keeper, for He has no servant there. He alone maintains that gate through which entry to salvation is gained. (2 Nephi 9: 41.)
Study, therefore, to show yourself approved. (2 Tim. 2: 15.)
When a person treats the information in an appropriate way, they “prove” themselves (Abraham 3: 25) worthy of weightier information to be given them. (D&C 132: 20-21.) Then they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart, only according to the heed and diligence which another should give to the word. (Alma 12:9.)
Entrusting the things that are in truth “most sacred” to those who are not qualified will arouse their anger. They will “turn and rend you” because you have shown them something which excites their envy, jealousy, hatred and fear. They know you have something they lack. They resent you because of what they cannot easily obtain. Therefore, you must measure carefully what you give to others. The final arbiter of the decision to impart is not made by you, it is made by the Lord.
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.
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.
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.)
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
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?
“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.
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?
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?
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.)
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.
Hopefully, having it available as a book will spare me thousands of conversations. Hope you will all enjoy.