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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Our God, Our Deliverer

Mosiah 25:16 "And he did exhort the people of Limhi and his brethren, all those that had been delivered out of bondage, that they should remember that it was the Lord that did deliver them."

Remember that it is the Lord that delivers us from bondage, and once you are delivered from bondage, do not forget that it was the Lord who delivered you. This is true for temporal bondage, as well as spiritual bondage. This isn't to say that we don't have our own part to do. We need not only faith; we need to work. Doing our part to free ourselves from bondage, whether through repentance, making debt payments, finding appropriate representation, etc., is requisite to God doing his part to free us.

The gospel is a gospel of work, of us learning, and growing. We don't grow from being bailed out every single time we're in trouble. If we were we'd all be spoiled rotten brats. Our Heavenly Father will supplement our efforts with his efforts. He will give us peace and help us to find and use the tools he has provided to set us free.

That being said, there are situations that some are not freed from. Some of those are consequences of our own actions, and some are from circumstances beyond our control. Others are the result of tyranny, such as during the holocaust, the Rwandan genocides, or any number of horrible things that happen in our world. In those situations the Lord can provide peace to the heart and mind, and he will punish those tyrants for their sins against the people. Many times the peace the comes for people in those extremes is an end to suffering. I really don't want to go further into that right now. These situations are too painful, and unimaginable for me to ponder too deeply.

For those in other anguish, such as depression, and abuse remember that the Lord is the one who can, and will deliver you. Be sure to do your part, which is using the tools provided us, i.e. medication, therapy, friends, spiritual leaders, legal authority, etc. It may be a hard road, but remain faithful and you will find peace.

Truth and the True Church

Mosiah 4:8 "And this is the means whereby salvation cometh. And there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of; neither are there any conditions whereby man can be saved except the conditions which I have told you."

This is an interesting statement, and a bold proclamation, especially in our day. Our nation, the United States tries to be so PC about every belief system, and it has created this pernicious doctrine that everybody is right, and nobody is wrong, and that is the work of Satan. Because, if everybody is right, and every religion is correct, then what does it matter what religion you join. This thought process trivializes religion. Religion becomes a lifestyle choice, dependent on factors that have nothing to do with God. There is no search for truth, because the truth is in front of you, in whatever form you accept it.

This search for truth is what separated Joseph Smith from so many others. While most people were seeking the church they liked the best, or fit with their way of thinking best, Joseph Smith wanted to know the untainted truth, not what he wanted to hear, but what God wanted him to hear.

D&C 93:30 tells us that “all truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it”, this statement means that truth is independent of our beliefs, and knowledge, or lack thereof. Truth is truth, and cannot be changed. The truth does not change, just our understanding about the truth.

Just as Ammon stated, “there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of”, we need to be telling the world that there is no other true church upon the Earth, and no other true doctrine. If every church is right, then every doctrine in every church is correct. If every doctrine in every church is correct, then God is changeable to interpretation. If God is changeable, then he is not God, for God is unchangeable. And if there be no God, then no church is correct, because all churches teach of God in a different way. If no church is correct then we are, as Paul said, “Of all men most miserable.” (1 Cor 15:19)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Earning God's trust

How does one become a prophet, apostle, or get into other "prestigious" callings in the church? I used to think it was because the Lord chose them for whatever characteristics they naturally had, whatever strengths they had, or that they had lots of luck. Recently I’ve learned that the Lord calls those he can trust and the people the Lord trusts have to earn that trust. Lehi and Nephi earned the trust of the Lord by doing as they were commanded, having faith in the Lord, praying diligently and with true intent, and trusting that they were doing the right thing (not murmuring). The funny thing though, is that all of these are basic gospel principles, but are so easy to fail at doing.

Contrast this with the doctrine of foreordination, the doctrine that Heavenly Father determined our callings and ordinations in the pre-mortal life. (Alma 13:3) This is a doctrine I used to struggle with until I gained some additional understanding. Much wrong has been done by men that were "predestined" to sit in a position of power. However, this doctrine is different than that of God just choosing men he wants to rule without them ever presenting of body of work before him. The men he chooses as his prophets were foreordained in the pre-Earth life because of the work they did there, and as spirits proved their worth, and gained the Father's trust. Then when they came to this life they had to continue their good works.

I am sure many were foreordained who never even stepped foot inside a church, which is the beauty and bitterness of Heavenly Father's plan. Many are chosen to do the work, but only a few follow. Just because a man is foreordained doesn't mean that he must follow the path he was foreordained for. On the same token, I imagine that there are many who were not foreordained to any calling in this life, but gained Heavenly Father's trust because of the work they've done in this life.

The point is that our agency allows us to prove ourselves to our Heavenly Father whether we "will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command [us]." (Abr 3:25) Whether or not we proved ourselves in the pre-mortal life, we must still prove ourselves in this life if we are going to do as we were foreordained to do.

Testimony and Conviction

Most apparent in the first chapters of 1 Nephi is the principle of testimony. 1 Nephi begins with Lehi’s vision, followed by Lehi calling his people to repentance. Without a testimony, Lehi’s vision would have meant very little to him. Though we think that if we had such an experience we would also have a testimony, Laman and Lemuel prove us wrong when the angel visits them outside the walls of Jerusalem. Despite seeing an angel, they continue to murmur, and do not gain a testimony of the gospel. Lehi, however, holds true to his testimony, even when his life is in danger. Nephi also gains a testimony, and does so by praying about his father’s experience to ask if it is true with faith that he will receive an answer.

Lehi testifies of the truth despite persecution. His life is in danger, and he sticks to his guns. I know that I don’t have that much conviction. I usually clam up when people talk badly about the church in fear of being singled out. However, that is not the Lord’s way. Even as a ward missionary I find it difficult to face the persecution.