Monday, May 15, 2017

A Higher Order

We learn from history that God offers a higher way of being that is often rejected.  When it is, a lower level is introduced, likely without much notice, so as to offer to the people the level they desire, and invite those who desire more to rise up.  Most are more comfortable with the lower level, as it is complete with rules and structure to keep people busy and seemingly fulfilled.  It is more comfortable also because they can rely upon someone else, usually a prophet figure, to tell them what God wants them to do.  They can even find joy in this way of living (3 Nephi 27:11).  The people involved begin to build up the lower way as if it were the higher way, and forget or are ignorant of the fact that it is only an invitation, a call to rise up.  They make it a cheap imitation of the higher way.  It ends up damning them in the progress they desire, because the progress they desire only comes by becoming and living the higher way.

I have thought often how, like others written about in history, we can quickly find ourselves in the lower way.  Even more concerning is the difficulty in recognizing our rejection of the higher way in our preference for the lower.  

When the children of Israel rejected the greater priesthood in the wilderness, they were given only a portion or a lesser priesthood.  "Aaronic" being the label given to the lower way, and "Melchizedek" being the label given to the higher.  Rather than just thinking of Aaronic and Melchizedek as only priesthood authority, think of the two ways as different approaches to associate with Heaven.  I'm going to continue to use "lower" and "higher" to describe these two ways because of the associations we have with the terms Aaronic and Melchizedek.  Where there are quotes that use the terms "Aaronic" and/or "Melchizedek", match them up with higher and lower as I attempt to make this point.

Following are some scriptures and quotes that help identify the characteristics of the lower and higher ways.
18 And the Lord confirmed a priesthood also upon Aaron and his seed, throughout all their generations, which priesthood also continueth and abideth forever with the priesthood which is after the holiest order of God.
19 And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;
22 For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.
23 Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God;
24 But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory.
25 Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also;
26 And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel;
27 Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John, whom God raised up, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb. (D&C 84)
When you receive the higher ordinances that manifest the power of godliness, and are able to behold the face of God, then you are a part of the higher order.  The pattern we see explained in the scriptures above shows that when an offer to come up to the Melchizedek/higher level is rejected (or not sought after with real intent, with all of our hearts), the Lord begins to deal with us at the Aaronic/lower level.   We see the Lord offering a preparatory gospel consisting of repentance and baptism and the law of carnal commandments.  The wrath described here is the Lord taking a step back, away from those who reject the higher order.
“The law was given under Aaron for the purpose of pouring out judgments and destructions.” [The Mosaic law was given, and the priesthood was accommodated in order to pour out judgments and destruction. This explains a great deal about the lower portion or Aaronic/ Levitical priesthood.] D& C 1: 8 is a description of the authority of the lower priesthood. “And verily I say unto you, that they who go forth, bearing these tidings unto the inhabitants of the earth, to them is power given to seal both on earth and in heaven, the unbelieving and rebellious; Yea, verily, to seal them up unto the day when the wrath of God shall be poured out upon the wicked without measure—Unto the day when the Lord shall come to recompense unto every man according to his work, and measure to every man according to the measure which he has measured to his fellow man.” [These are all sealing up unto destruction. These condemn and are, in a word, Aaronic. Notwithstanding the condemnatory role, the Aaronic priesthood is not without hope. It has the power to baptize, which is an ordinance of hope.]
Continuing with Joseph’s sermon: “There are three grand orders of priesthood referred to here. First, The king of Shiloam (Salem) had power and authority over that of Abraham, holding the key and the power of endless life. Angels,” [Remember there being different ranks or levels of angels.] “desire to look into it, but they have set up too many stakes.” [These angels were unwilling to receive what they might have received, and as a consequence of that, they could not go on in their development. D& C 132: 16 describes some ways we can limit ourselves:] “Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory." [Because of their unwillingness to receive what God offers us, they were damned, or in other words they limited their development.] Joseph goes on to say, “God cursed the children of Israel because they would not receive the last law from Moses. The sacrifice required of Abraham in the offering up of Isaac, shows that if a man would attain to the keys of the kingdom of an endless life; he must sacrifice all things. When God offers a blessing or knowledge to a man, and he refuses to receive it, he will be damned.” [If we reject what is offered, we limit ourselves. Then, after this life, when we realize what we have done to ourselves, we condemn ourselves for our folly]. (Preserving the Restoration, Priesthood p. 181-182)
We become stuck in the lower order when we put down stakes (tie ourselves to our comfortable traditions that do not lead us to the higher order), or we are unwilling to receive what is offered to us, instead rejecting the offer we might have received.  The offer comes with a requirement to sacrifice all things, and if there is an unwillingness to do this, then in effect, we refuse to receive what we might have received.  In other words, we reject it.
"The Melchizedek is given for blessing and giving life. If someone claims to hold Melchizedek priesthood but use it to judge, condemn, control, compel, and assert authority over the souls of men, then it is a sign they hold no such authority. If they refuse to limit themselves to persuasion, gentleness, and meekness then that alone is a sign that the man uses Aaronic and not Melchizedek authority (if they have authority at all). Because the office and the authority and the keys of the Melchizedek is given by God to a man to bless, to enlighten, to raise you up by bringing to you light and truth, which is the glory of God, or intelligence." (Preserving the Restoration, Priesthood p. 183)
If and when we find ourselves judging, condemning, controlling or compelling others, we know that we are acting from the lower level of being.  Using threats of a religious nature (God is going to burn you up if you don't ______) that instills fear as a motivator is a lower level way to teach.  It is also very easy to deceive ourselves and others that we are not doing those things, while inside we are angry and full of judgement and condemnation.  If you find yourself acting kind and loving around others, and then talking about them behind their back (even to yourself) then you are acting at the lower level of being.

If you find that your motivation for taking any action that you perceive God wants you to take is fear, whether it is fear of loss, fear of missing out, fear of pain, or fear of what others might think, then you are coming from a lower level of thinking.

The higher way of being requires sacrifice of self.  It requires coming from a position of love.  It requires that you begin to dispense light and truth to others, because you are beginning to be filled with light and truth.  You begin to actually be a blessing to others, because you are willing to truly sacrifice for others.
The Aaronic or Levitical is an association with angels. The Melchizedek is an association with the Son of God. The patriarchal is an association with the Father, and makes one a son of God. (Preserving the Restoration, Priesthood p. 180) [A third level is introduced here that we won't address in this post]
The level of heaven we are associating with helps us understand the level of being we are currently living.

The following is a side by side comparison with some of my thoughts on these levels of being.  There are likely more, but this chart is meant to be thought provoking only.

Separates and divides, compares, competes and contrasts, puts people in a box with labels.  Only sees "separateness"
Works to bring all together, gathers and lifts. Is inclusive.  Gathers from without its present circle or community, continually invites those living at a lower level to come up.  Recognizes "oneness"

Judges, blames, accuses and condemns others
Takes responsibility for self and others

Fear, feigned love, enmity, envy, jealousy, coveting 
Unfeigned love, charity

Outward or physical ordinances
The fruit or desired outcome of the physical ordinance, baptism of fire, piercing the veil, etc.

Baptism of water
 Baptism of fire
Ordinances in a temple
Become a Temple                   

Routines and repetitions that point higher
Spirit led, erratic, irregular, like the wind

Sacrifice of things (animals or tithing)
Sacrifice of self and one's own life

Real intent
Attempts to convince by argument
Works to persuade with pure knowledge

Letter of the law
Spirit of the law

Appeals to the authority and message of a "Moses" (a man of God)
Knows God and has direct authority from Him

Desires and needs a prophet figure/leader
Respects other prophets and spokesmen, but has no need of a spokesman or intermediary figure, is a prophet. Needs no man to say or to show how to, "know ye the Lord".

When the higher order is rejected, whether it be overt rejection or rejection by any level of our own apathy, what do we then begin to see emphasized?  A preparatory gospel.  Repentance and baptism, ordinances and performances, laws and commandments that have to do with the outward or carnal self, all preparatory things that continue to invite us to come up.  If we remain at the Aaronic level however, we are damned and cannot progress any further.

We also typically see that those involved in the Aaronic level of living begin to believe that what they are doing is all that is necessary for their salvation and exaltation.   They replace "becoming" with "doing" and re-orient their understanding of the gospel around the "doing", and ignore the description "preparatory gospel".  Rather, they call what they have a fullness, yet it the lacks the obvious power that previous dispensations had.

18 The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church--
19 To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.
20 The power and authority of the lesser, or Aaronic Priesthood, is to hold the keys of the ministering of angels, and to administer in outward ordinances, the letter of the gospel, the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, agreeable to the covenants and commandments. (D&C 107)
This higher order involves association with the heavens.   
Continuing with Joseph, “The Israelites prayed that God would speak to Moses and not to them; in consequence of which he cursed them with a carnal law.” If the children of Israel were cursed by God because they wanted Moses to speak to God for them, how much greater must be the damnation upon those who teach that they will talk to God for us and therefore we do not need to. This is heresy and a doctrine of the devil taught by purveyors of a false priestcraft. Such teaching is unauthorized and unsanctioned by God. They suffer not themselves to enter in to salvation, and they hedge up the way for all who heed them.  No man on his own errand can offer salvation. But if God sends a message you better heed it, even if you find it difficult to hear. Joseph continues, “What was the power of Melchizedek? ‘Twas not the Priesthood of Aaron which administers in outward ordinances, and the offering of sacrifices. Those holding the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood are kings and priests of the Most High God, holding the keys of power and blessings.” The Melchizedek is given for blessing and giving life.  (Preserving the Restoration, Priesthood p. 182-183)
Moses held this higher order, but because the children of Israel would not come up to that fiery mount, preferring a spokesman and waiting for that spokesman to come and tell them what God wanted for them, they were held back from the higher order.
Continuing, “The 3rd is what is called the Levitical Priesthood, consisting of priests to administer in outward ordinances, made without an oath; but the Priesthood of Melchizedek is by an oath and covenant." [But the oath and the covenant is the oath and the covenant that is given by the Father. It's not these verses which we read from Section 84 to the newly ordained church Elder. These verses are only an aspiration to the church’s Elders. While it's very good to have aspirational notions preached to us in connection with the priesthood we should realize an aspiration is not a reality. Similarly knowledge concerning the covenant is not the same thing as possessing the covenant itself. Therefore, if you're going to receive the covenant which cannot be broken, it is obtained by, and from, the Father.] Continuing, "The Holy Ghost is God's messenger to administer in all those priesthoods." [You see, it was by faith and the power of the Holy Ghost, that Melchizedek did what he did. And if someone gets possession of any or all of these priesthoods, administering in them must be through the power of the Holy Ghost. I just read you what Joseph said: “It is by the power of the Holy Ghost.” So let me ask you the question, and you answer it yourself: Let us assume the case that a woman is filled with the Holy Ghost. Rather like Anna in the temple when Christ was brought forth, and Anna, by the power of the Holy Ghost prophesies concerning the young babe, who had been brought to the temple. Given the fact that the authority by which priesthood is to become operative, as Joseph just explained, is the Holy Ghost, what possible difference does it make, if the prophetess Anna, standing in the temple, prophesying concerning the child who is brought in (see Luke 2: 36-38), cannot grab a knife and go over to the place where they tied the animals, and cut the throat of the sheep? Of what significance is it if she could not divide up and carry part of the carcass to the iron grate at the top of the ramp upon the altar where they burned it? And of what significance is it if she could not take the bowl and hyssop and walk around and splatter the four corners of the altar, at the bloodline of the altar? Why would it be more significant that Anna was deprived of the outward ordinance performance, then that she, as a prophetess, filled with the Holy Ghost, spake and prophesied concerning the Son of God on the day that He was brought to the temple, for the offering of the cleansing of Mary, having completed her day? Only a fool would prize the outward performance above the power of the Holy Ghost animating Anna on that day. Those priests performing their functions were unaware of the babe’s significance. Unless, of course, they gave heed to the testimony of the prophetess. (Denver Snuffer Priesthood Talk p. 22-23)
Prizing the outward ordinances and preparatory gospel above the inward "becoming" and gospel fullness is foolish.  While the outward ordinances can help us to come into understanding of what God wants for us, we would be foolish to set aside the higher order in exchange for a set of physical rituals meant to point us higher.
“[T]he Lord God saw that his people were a stiffnecked people, and he appointed unto them a law, even the law of Moses.” [The people who God claimed as “His” were nevertheless “stiffnecked people.” He didn’t abandon them because of their spiritual stubbornness. Nor did He reject them because they were suffering from their own pride and self‑will. They were still “His.” But, because they were unable or unwilling to really come to Him and be redeemed from the fall, He gave them something to trouble them. He gave them the law of Moses which included a set of rules, sacrifices, ordinances and observances in a temple or House of God. There, in rich symbolism, they were reminded about the real thing—His presence. They were taught about His real nature. They were shown symbols that foreshadowed His coming into the world to be the bread of life, the light of the world, the sacrifice for sin, and the one through whose blood it was possible to enter back into the Holy of Holies. They had symbolic clothing, sacred language, divine ritual, and sacred space given them. All these symbolic rites were because they were “a stiffnecked people” unwilling to enter into His actual presence. 
These benighted and proud people then looked at all other religions and regarded them as less than “the chosen people” because the law of Moses given to them entrusted them with sacred space, sacred ritual, and sacred observances. These stiffnecked people regarded the law of Moses an end in itself.  It was their special set of rites, sacred space, hidden rituals participated in by only the “worthy” and “chosen few.” They were reassured that they were God’s chosen people. Unfortunately, they were chosen as an example of foolishness, pride, and ultimately the example of those who reject God and kill His Son all the while thinking they obeyed Him. They were chosen to show how to miss the mark as they stood atop sacred ground dedicated to the God they claimed to worship. They were chosen to be foolish, so we might be wise. They were chosen precisely because of their stiff necks to show how God does not delight in the mere observances of outward rituals, but expects our hearts to be made righteous. They illustrate how God rebuked the ancient chosen people for their failure to follow Him in their heart, rather than just in their empty ordinances.  (Preserving the Restoration p. 221-222)
Will we be given, or have we been given a test that offers both the higher and lower ways of approaching God?  Will we have to choose?  If you had been among the children of Israel when the higher order was offered and rejected by most, what would you have done?  How do you show God which order you prefer?  If most of those seeking the face of Christ fail in that pursuit, fail to be fundamentally changed, fail at being born again as a new creature, and instead turn to outward ordinances inside of a temple as a substitute, will we have lost our chance at becoming a part of Zion?
31 ¶ Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:
33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31)
The covenant made with the children of Israel at the time of Moses was a written covenant full of rules, sacrifices, ordinances and observances in a temple setting.  It was outward or written outside of what was in their hearts, and they broke it and they were cursed.  It was Aaronic, it was the lower order.

This prophesy is a description of a people who have recognized the purpose of the lower order and have made the connection and gained access to heaven, and are active participants in the higher order. The covenant that blesses isn't found on paper, nor is it found in a man declaring it to his brother or neighbor, it is found in your heart, written there by the Lord Himself.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Order of Heaven is Oneness

The Order of Heaven is Oneness

First a disclaimer.  I'm a hypocrite when it comes to the things I've written below.  I'm a work in progress, still under construction.  It would be easy to find some immediate examples of how I'm not living according to what I'm trying to communicate here.  But I still think what I have written is true.

 I've been thinking for some time about this subject.  As I have observed the divisiveness grow in our country, in religion, and in everyday life, it is easy to become discouraged.  It is easy to retreat into individualism.  It is easier to label the individual or group you "oppose" and distance yourself from them.  I've seen it in politics, at church, in my family, and among friends.  Instead of "oneness" we have "separateness".  Separateness leads to being against that which is different and separate.  Once you find yourself in a group of people that is different than another group of people, you are now "against" that group.  Democrats vs Republicans has been the most recent epic battle that is still ongoing.  "Us" against "Them".  Our "team"vs. their "team".

Once you join one of these "teams" that is against another "team", the current doctrines, creeds, and dogmas of that group are now part of belonging to that team.  Forget seeking the truth, just find out what your team believes and stay loyal to those beliefs or you may find yourself in opposition to your own team!  When someone comes along that tries to convince you of something your team doesn't believe is true, you are likely to discount everything they say because your team sees everything correctly and is doing the right thing.

For those who wonder what team the Lord wants us to be on, He gives a very simple definition, followed by a very serious warning.
67 Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.
68 Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church.
69 And now, behold, whosoever is of my church, and endureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.  (D&C 10)
We would do well to consider everyone who desires to come unto Christ who is in the process of repenting, to be on the same team.  Teams help one another and support one another.  We don't always have to agree on everything.  We can discuss things, and if we don't agree on things, we can still love and support one another.

Becoming truly united with another person is not an easy thing to do.
I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine. (D&C 38:27)
The Father and the Son are one.  They desire us to become "one in them".
21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:21-23)
2 I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was crucified for the sins of the world, even as many as will believe on my name, that they may become the sons of God, even one in me as I am one in the Father, as the Father is one in me, that we may be one. (D&C 35:2)
How do we become one in Christ?  Do we have to agree on everything?  Do the inhabitants of heaven hold the same knowledge and opinions as everyone else in heaven?  Do they all understand all things just as the Father does?  It cannot be, not all have ascended to the knowledge and power of God.  There has to be different levels of understanding, knowledge and intelligence.  So how do large groups of beings that hold different levels of knowledge and opinions about things become "one"?

I don't claim to have an answer on that last question, however, I do have an example that demonstrates oneness with a variety of people, all with different abilities, talents and understanding.

Please watch the following video.  You could skip over it, but it really drives home this point.  This video demonstrates several things to me.  It starts out with just one instrument.  As time goes by, more instruments are added, creating harmony, volume, variety, and feeling.  Voices finally join bringing a dimension that lifts and elevates.  When you get to the end, think back to how it started, with just the one instrument, and how different it ended, with so many others that joined in.

Now think back to the different variety of people, some young, some old.  They were wearing different clothing, they played different instruments, they were of different nationalities.  They likely came from different economic circumstances, they likely had different religious persuasions, some might have been atheists, some agnostic.  But they came together with purpose, and with one heart, and one mind, they made beautiful music.  Making beautiful music did not require them to all have the same opinions about things.  Making beautiful music did not require them to have the same exact talents, skills or abilities.  They didn't even need to think of the music they were playing the same way.  Some may have loved that song, others might have cared more about other types of music.  I could go on and on about all of the differences these people brought with them to this musical number.  The beauty of all this, is that given all of the differences, they became one in purpose.  They united their individual talents and in many voices they became one masterpiece.

There are other musical words that we use to help us understand some of these concepts.




There is also the opposite of these harmonious words.  In music however, it's not necessarily horrible to have dissonance as demonstrated by this short video:

One note that fights against the resonance of another is dissonance.  That dissonance creates tension between the other notes.  There is a natural tendency to seek resolution.  Resolving that dissonance can be a beautiful part of a musical piece.

However, things can get pretty bad when a group gets together that does not resonate with one another as demonstrated in this next clip.  You don't have to listen long to get the point.

We really seem to struggle with one another when we feel the other person is not on the same page as we are, or that sees things in a much different light.  I'm not talking about the classic "Mayonnaise vs. Miracle Whip" argument, that one is easy, Mayo is way better and it is so totally obvious (get the point?).  It is the things we see as being highly important that we value deeply that we tend to tie our emotions to, and we end up looking sideways (or worse) at someone who disagrees with us.  Jesus says this about contending and disputing about His doctrine:
29 For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
30 Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away. (3 Nephi 11:29-30)
So how do we do that?  How do we have a discussion about something that we think is important, and that we disagree with someone else about?

Anger is the problem in a discussion with opposing arguments.  Anger is a function of failed expectations.  One of the main problems in a discussion with opposing opinions is that neither side generally understands the other side, and generally refuses to really listen to understand to the opposition's stand on things.

Are you in a habit of trying to "convince" others to your way of seeing things?

mid 16th century (in the sense ‘overcome, defeat in argument’): from Latin convincere, from con- ‘with’ +vincere ‘conquer.’ Compare with convict.

Here is the etymology of the word "convince".  Perhaps "convincing" others is not the way to go, unless you want to conquer, overcome and defeat them in an argument.  Many do enjoy this kind of exchange.  But it is not the way of the Lord.  Persuasion or influence is a better way to go.  It is a different approach.  It doesn't require that you overcome or defeat someone.  Sounds too much like "control".

There are some that use the example of Jesus braiding a rope and casting people out of the temple as justification for their ongoing behavior.  I don't think that Jesus carried that whip around with Him.  There was a time to use it, and He did.  But it wasn't in His hand at all times.  There are many more examples of Him healing with His hands.  If you feel that you have the connection with heaven enough to know when to get out that whip, then by all means, do it.  But you ought to be sure of what spirit you are listening to.

Do you want to have influence with someone you don't agree with?  In order to truly be effective, you must esteem or consider your brother or your sister to be as yourself (Mosiah 23:7, 27:4, Alma 1:26, D&C 38:24-25).  In other words, you cannot put yourself or your opinions above anyone else.  This is where those who are intellectual, those who are well studied, will struggle.  I believe that you can learn something from every person on this planet.  If that is true, then you have to be open to being influenced first before you try to influence.  You have to be open to the fact that you don't see every angle to what you are discussing.  You have to be open to admit that your viewpoint could be off or incomplete.  Searching for and accepting truth ought to be the goal instead of being right.

How do you demonstrate that you are open to being influenced?  You have to listen first.  And not just listen, but listen to understand what the opposing viewpoint is saying.  Then repeat it to them.  Repeat what you think they are saying back to them so that they know that you heard them and understand their position.  This is a vulnerable position to be in, so many avoid it.  You still don't have to agree.  You just restate what they said in your own words.  "So your position on this is ...  Did I get that right?"  They might correct what you said, so you then clarify again until they feel that you understood their way of looking at things.  You are then able to express your thoughts on the subject.  Perhaps the person you are discussing things with will change their opinions, maybe not.  If you will try this, your conversations will change.  Your relationships will expand.  Your influence will be magnified, and yet, you still don't have to agree with everything that someone else thinks.  Intent is critical to this process.  If your intent is to practice this technique in order to control the outcome or the other person, you will fail.

We have all either been or have met those people that know everything about anything.  It is not easy to have a conversation with them.  It is mostly a talking session, and you are the listener.  Don't be that person that doesn't value a person enough to listen to their opinions or expressions of how they see things.

There is a difference between debating and having a conversation where you are trying to understand the other person's position.

You cannot truly become one with others unless there is honest communication and understanding on a deeper level.
12 For just as the body is one and yet has many parts, and all the parts, though many, form [only] one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For by one [Holy] Spirit we were all baptized into one body, [spiritually transformed—united together] whether Jews or Greeks (Gentiles), slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one [Holy] Spirit [since the same Holy Spirit fills each life].
14 For the [human] body does not consist of one part, but of many [limbs and organs]. 15 If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” is it not on the contrary still a part of the body? 16 If the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” is it not on the contrary still a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole [body] were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But now [as things really are], God has placed and arranged the parts in the body, each one of them, just as He willed and saw fit [with the best balance of function]. 19 If they all were a single organ, where would [the rest of] the body be? 20 But now [as things really are] there are many parts [different limbs and organs], but a single body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 But quite the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are [absolutely] necessary; 23 and as for those parts of the body which we consider less honorable, these we treat with greater honor; and our less presentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 while our more presentable parts do not require it. But God has combined the [whole] body, giving greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 so that there would be no division or discord in the body [that is, lack of adaptation of the parts to each other], but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the parts share the suffering; if one member is honored, all rejoice with it. (1 Corinthians 12 AMP)
I love this comparison of a group of individuals with the body.  We are all part of the body of Christ with different talents and abilities.  The body works together as one, but is made up of different parts, all with different functions and abilities.  At even a greater scale, our bodies are made up of trillions of individual cells of many different types and functions.  Yet, they all work together as one.  When a cell or group of cells goes rogue, we call that cancer and it affects the entire body eventually unless it is eradicated.

Our goal should be to become one with God, and then with one another.
16 These teachings of the Savior must clearly show unto us the nature of salvation; and what he proposed unto the human family when he proposed to save them—That he proposed to make them like unto himself; and he was like the Father, the great prototype of all saved beings: And for any portion of the human family to be assimilated into their likeness is to be saved; and to be unlike them is to be destroyed: and on this hinge turns the door of salvation. (Lectures on Faith, Lecture 7)
 I hope that some of these things are helpful.  In the end, if we cannot learn to live by the great commandments of loving God, and loving our neighbor as ourselves, our thoughts and opinions that we value above our neighbors will mean very little.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Keep My Commandments Part 2

In the first post "Keep My Commandments Part 1", we discussed how we might define the word "keep" as preserving, guarding or watching over the commandments the Lord has given us so that we preserve their meaning and intent within our families.  We also looked at how some of the things that Christ has asked us to "keep" has been transfigured into something different.

There is another meaning of the word "keep" that is very helpful in understanding another way we are to "keep His commandments".  The word "keep" comes from the Middle English word "kepen", which means to observe, heed, watch and await.  Using this meaning of the word adds an additional dimension.  We are to wait and watch for His commandments and then to observe and do them.  This takes the phrase "keep my commandments" to a very personal level.  Consider these verses in John 15:
1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.
The amplified bible adds an additional clarification to verse 10:
10 If you keep My commandments [if you continue to obey My instructions]...
How did Christ receive commandments or instructions of the Father?  In communion with Him, as He prayed, as He listened.  They were the Father's commandments to Christ as to what He should do during His mortal ministry.  And we are to abide in Christ in the same way.  We "keep His commandments" when we get them directly from Him, and then do them.  If we think that we can just keep a set of rules, without "abiding in Christ", without knowing the Master we serve, we will eventually find that we are just a dead branch with no life that bears no fruit.  His voice must be familiar to us, we must listen to what He is saying, and then we must obey Him, even if doing what He asks us to do puts us in conflict with others.  And it surely will, because as you attempt to keep His commandments in their purest form, you will be in conflict with those who align with traditions that show the decay and misunderstanding of His words and meanings.

Learning to hear the voice of the Lord is one of the most important things we can do to increase our faith in Him.  The scriptures are filled with examples of people interacting with God.  We are missing something if we are not at least communicating with Him.  Not just praying to Him, but having conversations with Him.  He is talkative, but He does not force Himself on anyone.  This post goes into greater detail about hearing the voice of the Lord.

1 Nephi 17:3 And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.
The commandments of God can be very individual and tailored to a persons needs.  When He gives you instructions or commandments, He prepares a way for those things to be accomplished.

Do you know the will of God for you as an individual?  Do you know what God's will for you is right now?  What does He want you to be doing right now to further His work on the earth?  God's will is not always done on earth.  Things don't always happen the way they are "supposed to".  I hear that statement often - "well, things will turn out the way they are supposed to."  Things don't always turn out according to the will of God.  He patiently waits for us to align with His laws, His commands.

One word of caution.  Once you begin to hear the voice of the Lord, you are also open to hearing the voice of the adversary.  You must discern between the voices.  If the voice you are listening to begins to bring pride and flattery into your heart and mind, turn away from it, you are being deceived.  The voice of the Lord will always bring you to a place of repentance, meekness and humility.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Keep My Commandments Part 1

How often we see the phrase "keep my commandments" in the scriptures.  Like many, I have wondered at how I am supposed to keep all of the commandments when I am imperfect and seem to break some of them on a regular basis.

"Keep" is a word with many meanings.  Usually when we hear "keep the commandments", we think of doing what the Lord commands us to do, and that is appropriate and fits very well.  However, I would like to consider some other meanings that also seem to be very important.

Other definitions of the word "keep":
- to maintain in condition or order.
- to have the care, charge or custody of.
- to guard, protect.
- to take care of, tend.

The first way we should "keep the commandments" is to not change them or their meaning.

The word "keep" is translated from the Greek word "tereo", which means "keep, guard, observe, watch over".

If we don't guard, preserve or watch over the understanding and meanings of the commandments that the Lord gives us then we will not get the bigger picture of what the Lord is trying to accomplish here on this earth.

For example, did the house of Israel "keep" (meaning preserve the understanding and intent) the commandments given through Moses in such a way as to recognize Christ?  Obviously not.  While they kept many of the commandments in form, they did not understand the meaning behind them.  They added to and took away from the things that God gave them.  I would suspect that the intent in adding to and taking from God's commandments was not necessarily evil, but was as a result of not understanding God's intent, and taking authority upon themselves.

If we are to preserve the commandments we have been given, we must teach them to our children.  Nephi and his brothers risked their lives in an effort to preserve and "keep the commandments" of God when they retrieved the brass plates.  They knew how important it was to have these written words to be able to pass them down through their generations.  Still, even with the information from the brass plates, King Noah and his high priests didn't understand the intent of the performances and ordinances of the law of Moses.  In Mosiah 12:29-32, Abinadi asks the religious leaders of his day,
"If ye teach the law of Moses why do ye not keep it?... And what know ye concerning the law of Moses?  Doth salvation come by the law of Moses?"  And they answered and said that salvation did come by the law of Moses.
The people of King Noah believed in the law of Moses, they taught it to each other (vs. 28), they were religious.  They believed that salvation was in living according to the law of Moses.  The problem with the house of Israel and the people of King Noah wasn't that the people weren't religious, it was that they didn't understand and preserve the word of God and the meaning behind what they had been given.   They did not "apply their hearts to understanding" (vs. 27).  Somewhere along the way, they didn't "keep" or preserve the commandments and they fell into spiritual decay and darkness.  Abinadi summarizes his teaching with the following in Mosiah 16:14-15:
Therefore, if ye teach the law of Moses, also teach that it is a shadow of those things which are to come- Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father.  Amen.
Adinadi was killed for his testimony for saying "God himself should come down among the children of men" (Mosiah 17:7-8).  And yet that was the very purpose of the law of Moses, to point them to Christ and how He would come among them.

It's the same challenge we are faced with today.  Today we have a great advantage of seeing all of the errors of people in similar situations in the past, and yet at times we struggle to see the decay in understanding and meaning occuring in our day.  These "stories" in the Book of Mormon are not for us to notice how people in the past have botched things, they are so that we can see ourselves in the "stories".  And we are not always the "righteous" ones in the stories.  We need to consider that the errors and wickedness shown in these stories can be our own.

We also have challenges understanding things in the scriptures and following them.  For example:  After the Lord institutes the sacrament among the Nephites, He says the following in 3 Nephi 16:
28 And now behold, this is the commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily, when ye shall minister it;
29 For whoso eateth and drinketh my flesh and blood unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to his soul; therefore if ye know that a man is unworthy to eat and drink of my flesh and blood ye shall forbid him.
30 Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out from among you, but ye shall minister unto him and shall pray for him unto the Father, in my name; and if it so be that he repenteth and is baptized in my name, then shall ye receive him, and shall minister unto him of my flesh and blood.
31 But if he repent not he shall not be numbered among my people, that he may not destroy my people, for behold I know my sheep, and they are numbered.
32 Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out of your synagogues, or your places of worship, for unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them; and ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them.
33 Therefore, keep these sayings which I have commanded you that ye come not under condemnation; for wo unto him whom the Father condemneth.
The Lord does not want those who are unworthy to partake of the emblems of the sacrament because of the damnation it adds to them.  However, He does not define what it means to be unworthy, He only gives the remedy for unworthiness.  That remedy is repentance and baptism.  Only after repentance and baptism is the person then "worthy" to partake without eating and drinking damnation to their soul.  If the person is not willing to repent and be baptized, then they are to not be numbered among His sheep.  Not that the person is cast out of their places of worship, they are to be ministered to until that point that they are persuaded of their error and brought to repentance and baptism.  The disciples are then warned to "keep" these sayings, and if they do not, they will find themselves condemned by the Father.  They were given the responsibility to not only perform what He asked, but to preserve, watch over, and protect these sayings.  If they would not, they would be under condemnation.

How well have we watched over, protected and preserved these sayings within the church today?  If the Book of Mormon contains the "fulness of the everlasting gospel" (Book of Mormon Introduction), then can any change from that fulness be justified?  If something contains a fulness, then to add to it implies that it was not a fulness to begin with.  Likewise, to take away from it means you are now left with something less than the fulness.  Adding to or taking away from the gospel as taught in the Book of Mormon in the name of "continuing revelation" is as salt that has lost it's savor. The only way that salt can lose it's savor is if impurities are mixed in with it.  It is then cast out and trodden under the feet of men and good for nothing (3 Nephi 12:13).

If the Book of Mormon is given to us as a document that contains the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, are these sayings from our Lord in our practices today?  Clearly they are not.  Early in the history of the church, if you desired to be baptized again, as a sign to God that you desired to repent, you were able to do so.  In fact, all of the saints that migrated to Utah were re-baptized as a sign of their desire for a fresh start.  The Book of Mormon is full of examples of baptism being a reoccurring event (See Alma 5:62Moroni 6:1Moroni 8:10Moroni 8:25Mosiah 26:22Alma 7:143 Nephi 7:24).  The practice of re-baptism was discontinued in the early 1900's and the fact that it was practiced in early church history is mostly unknown among members today.  It is so "unknown" that being baptized unto repentance seems like a strange and perhaps even an evil thing to most members.

Some questions we should ask ourselves about these "sayings".  Does the Lord have something different in mind about the ordinances He has for us in our day?  Does He intentionally change the intent, practice, wording, and meaning over time, or is it more likely that men do that?  Is it more likely that God changes what He has ordained, what He asks of us, what He wants us to understand, or that men drift in their understanding, meaning, practices, and wording - over time?  We have not "kept" these sayings, but have drifted far from them.

And so condemnation continues and magnifies as we drift further from the word of God.
54 And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received
55 Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.
56 And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.
57 And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written— (D&C 84)
So now you are forced to choose.  Do you see what Christ commands regarding the ordinance of the sacrament and how it ties in with repentance and baptism and justify our failure to "keep these sayings" somehow?  How do you reconcile the condemnation the church is under for not following the Book of Mormon and at the same time still feel like we are on track and that the Lord is pleased with us and the church?  Perhaps you put it under the category of continuing revelation, that it was changed under His command somehow, even though He says it should not be changed?  Or do we hold fast to the word of God regardless of what any man or institution says?  Or maybe it really doesn't matter that much and there is no need to even think about these things at all.

This example of how we repent to be able to worthily partake of the sacrament is just one example among many.  I submit that we are in a similar position as the Jews were at the time of Christ.  We, like them, perform a set of ordinances that have been altered, misunderstood, added to and taken away from.  When Christ came among the Jews, because they did not "keep" the commandments, they could not understand who He was or what He was doing.  They, like us, thought that performing the ordinances was the thing that pleased God.  Many who participate in the LDS ordinances today have the belief that when the "saving" ordinance is performed, the work is done.  Kind of like a checklist, and when you have participated in all of the ordinances available, your checklist is complete.  There were few in the days of Christ that understood the purposes behind the ordinances, and it is the same today, many are called, but few are chosen.  Most will follow the traditions handed down to them from their fathers, rather than rise up and understand and obey the words of Christ.

In this context - the opposite of "keep" is to allow modifications, change, atrophy or transfiguration.  In the Book of Mormon, Moroni is one of the last to have the record in his possession.  Christ shows him our day, and so he gives us these very stern words in Mormon 8:
33 O ye wicked and perverse and stiffnecked people, why have ye built up churches unto yourselves to get gain? Why have ye transfigured the holy word of God, that ye might bring damnation upon your souls? Behold, look ye unto the revelations of God; for behold, the time cometh at that day when all these things must be fulfilled.
Moroni is accusing some of "transfiguring" the holy word of God.  I think we could all agree that changing the words of God is not a good thing.  Moroni says it brings "damnation upon our souls" if we do that.  Whoever he is speaking to, he exhorts them to "look unto the revelations of God".  The people he is speaking to must not be giving them proper heed.
34 Behold, the Lord hath shown unto me great and marvelous things concerning that which must shortly come, at that day when these things shall come forth among you.
So now we have some timing here.  He is talking about after "these things" come forth among us.
35 Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.
Moroni has seen us.  He speaks as if he were right here with us.  He has seen enough to "know our doing".
36 And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.
Those are some pretty heavy accusations - pride (most of those he is looking at save a few only), fine apparel, envying, strifes, malice, persecutions, all manner of iniquities.  All churches have become polluted (he pauses and indicates that he is talking about every one of them) because of pride in people's hearts.
37 For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.
More straightforward accusations about loving money, clothing and adorning churches with fine things, rather than taking care of the poor, sick and afflicted.
38 O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies—because of the praise of the world?
Now we get a few pointed questions.  Why have we polluted the holy church of God?  When I first read that question a few years ago, and seriously considered what was being communicated, my heart almost stopped.   I had always thought that this very strong language was for some other group of people. When I thought about the words being used, I had to ask what other church would Moroni call the holy church of God?  Could it be that he was talking to us, the recipients of the Book of Mormon?  I could not reasonably come to any other conclusion than that he was talking to us.  Unless there was some other church that was once "holy" that Moroni was talking about after the Book of Mormon was "sent forth among us".  I realized that these words seemed to trap their meaning into a corner.  As I became open to the possibility that Moroni was talking to us, I could start to see what he was talking about.

We may not be able to keep every commandment in the sense of performing every single thing asked of us every time.  We all fail often.  We can however, "keep the commandments" by working to understand and preserve the meanings and intent of God's commandments within ourselves and our own families as we study, learn, teach and expound these things to each other and our children.

We ought to prefer and honor the words of Christ as given in scripture to the words of men.  If the words of Christ conflict with some message from some other source, which do you follow?