Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sacrifice of Isaac

There were ancient Jewish traditions which held that Abraham actually killed Isaac on the mount and the Lord brought Isaac back to life.  The reference in Hebrews 11: 17-19 seems to be based upon this earlier tradition; in contrast to the Genesis account (Gen. 22: 9-13.)

If Abraham actually slew Isaac, and Isaac was raised from the dead, the trial of Abraham and the test of Isaac is more analogous to Christ's sacrifice than we imagine.

Hugh Nibley writes about these earlier traditions in Abraham in Egypt, pp. 329-344, 372-375.

We imagine the difficulties of the ancients to be less than they were.  Their faith was established through trial, sacrifice, obedience and consecration.  Not to the will of man or men, but to the will of God.  When men attempt to displace obedience to God into submission to the will of men, then it is not merely an error, it is idolatry. It is an abomination.

More often than not, obedience to God causes conflict with your fellow man.  It did not get these ancient Saints applause, position, praise or notice.

Books on Kindle

While all the books will become available on Kindle shortly, two of them are now available.  Both Ten Parables and Beloved Enos are now up.  I'm hoping that the rest will be there within the next ten days, but the process is somewhat complicated.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Kingdom of Heaven

Luke recorded a confrontation between the Lord and the Pharisees in which they demanded He tell them of the coming of the kingdom of heaven.  These foolish men thought the kingdom of heaven which might be acquired and controlled by men.  They wanted something over which men could rule.

The account reads: "And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation.  Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.  And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it.   And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them.   For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day."  (Luke 17: 20-24.)

When the kingdom of God reappears on the earth, men like the Pharisees will not be able to observe it.  It will not come in a way observable to those outside.  Instead, the kingdom will be "within" those who are included.  For them, the "observation" comes from the Lord making Himself known to them.  (See Numbers 12: 6.)  But such experiences are not public.  So for the Pharisees, it will be "without observation."

For His disciples, however, He went on to explain the time would come when they would want another day with Him, but that time will have passed.  They may wish it, but the time to draw near Him is while He is available; not after His departure.  When He has departed, then it will not be possible to find Him among those who say He is here! Or, He is there!

Though He may make Himself known on the same conditions to any who prepare themselves to receive Him, when He appears again it will be as lightening which lights heaven itself from one end to the other.  It will be entirely unmistakable.

The Pharisees were interested in the subject because they envied the kingdom of heaven.  They wanted to own it.  They wanted to control it.  If they could locate it, and usurp it, then they would have power over others who sought it.

Christ's answer completely frustrates man's capacity to control the kingdom of heaven.  It is not a franchise, giving Pharisees any authority or right.  It is not even capable of being "observed" by those who are blind to its appearance.  But it is nevertheless real.  It is "within" some few who qualify.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Tuesday marks the darkest day of the year, with the longest night.  During that night the moon will be eclipsed, most prominately in the North American continent.

Traditionally that night marks the moment when darkness has its greatest reign, to be then conqured by the returning light.  The following day beginning the return of light and the defeat of darkness.

This moment in nature marks a profound moment for those who believe nature has something to say.  It is an invitation to us to allow the light to begin to grow within us; to begin our own journey back into the light and to leave behind the darkness.

I think I'll accept the invitation again this year, and mark the moment by renewed effort.  The particular alignment required for us to pass through the eye of a needle and enter the Lord's presence is indeed possible.  For anyone.  On the same conditions.  It is a balance worth the time required to train ourselves.

Nature testifies endlessly of the Lord.  It also invites us endlessly to turn back to Him.  This continuing patience and enduring invitiation shown in nature is a reminder of how loving and patient, how persistent and committed the Lord is to our salvation.  Salvation is predicated upon the same, universal standard for all who would return to Him.  In that respect it is as exact and unchanging as the cycles of nature.  Despite its exacting requirements, it is endlessly inviting and continually encouraging us to accept that standard and to live it.  Not just to say, but to do.

I intend to do something, then, to show Him I want to return to the Light.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Provo Tabernacle

The destruction of the Provo Tabernacle by the fire last night makes me mourn.  I heard President Kimball speak there.  We had some of our student Stake Conferences there.  Later I attended the funeral of Rex Lee, the Dean of the J. Reuben Clark Law School while I attended.  I also attended Hugh Nibley's funeral there.  It was hallowed ground because of those memories. 

I assume it was arson, because of so many recent fires in LDS owned buildings.  Seems a foolish gesture, even if you hate the Church.  Nothing important is ever accomplished by destroying the creative labors of others.  If someone hates the Church, perhaps they ought to go build up their own.  There is no equivalency made by tearing down.  A person may be able to burn a building, but it does not make them any more important or great.  A man may have shot John Lennon, but that did not alter the killer's importance.  It merely made his insignificance more public.

There are two great forces at work.  One is entropy.  Everything is getting colder, darker, and dissolving.  This force is unrelenting, and can be found everywhere in the physical world.  Opposing it, however, is something which is creative, renewing, and equally unrelenting.  I believe this force which renews life, introduces new energy and forms new systems to be God's work.  It is, in a word, love.  Or, in the vernacular of the scriptures, it is charity.

When the labors of hundreds have been assembled to create a place of worship, a thing of beauty and a refuge for Saints, that act of charity will endure beyond any subsequent act of vandalism.  It cannot be lessened; though it may be broken or burned.  The testimony of sacrifice establishes an enduring legacy.

I hope the Tabernacle will be rebuilt.  I hope also the memory of the original will not fade from those who went there for such events as Brother Nibley's funeral, Dean Lee's funeral, and President Kimball's address. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Dolores Umbridge

In the Harry Potter series, I like how Dolores Umbridge turns questioning her actions into questioning the Ministry of Magic.  And by extension questioning the Minister of Magic.  What a power-hungry wench she was.  She parlayed herself and her every move or decision by extension into the acts of the very pinnacle of their social authority.  It is a sort of pathology you only see in very unhealthy social groups who are ruled by fear and intimidation.  I thought it was brilliant of J.K. Rowling to envision such a character.

Perfect love casts out all fear.  (Moroni 8: 16.)

Peter gave instruction about how the church ought to operate.  It was never through fear or intimidation; but through gentle example: "I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:  Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away." (1 Peter 5: 1-4.)

What a marvel the Gospel of Jesus Christ is in all its details.  When it appears on the earth, it appears in weakness, does not force itself upon the world, and persuades others to the truth.  When it is lost, then religion turns into the means to control and exercise compulsion.  It becomes all that Catholicism was.  Though, in truth, once the Protestant Reformation gathered power it greatly improved Catholicism by reducing its capacity to rule and reign with compulsion and intimidation.  By disposition men tend to abuse power whenever they think they hold it.  (D&C 121: 39-40.)  Just like men, institutions are best when humbled, and worst when they reign with pride and power.

How delightful it is when fiction, like the Potter series, captures a character which puts a timeless conflict into a modern yarn.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Your Life in Context

I've been reading modern church history, recently from primary sources including diaries as part of my work on a new book.  I've been struck by how difficult it is for people to put their own lives into context as they live them.  The history inside of which they live dominates their thoughts, beliefs, perceptions and interpretations.  It is almost impossible for people to disconnect from their surroundings and view history as they live it.

We rarely have it occur to us that we are part of a current, a flow of people, events and even thought in all the moments of our lives.  But we can act independent of that flow by making a choice.

I am astonished by the arrogance of office, position and wealth.  When any person is put into a position in which their circumstances grant them advantages over their fellow man, it is hard to retain empathy for how well intended but terribly misinformed actions always affect others.  Such things certainly do not make any person a bad man, but always reduces them from what they might have become.

It was essential to Christ's life that He be born in obscurity, associated with the least of His society, be deprived of wealth and official power.  He could not have accomplished His mission were He in a position to preside.  He needed to be persecuted to fully awaken to the injustices men impose on others.  Even so little a matter as tempting Him by interrogations designed to trip Him up made Him greater than He would have been had people deferred to His standing.  He was challenged, not coddled.  He grew from grace to grace until He was called the Son of God, because of the things which He suffered.

Almost without exception when a soul awakens to the historic context in which they live they immediately find themselves at odds with the surrounding culture.  In this also the Lord was The Great Example.

On Thanksgiving I find myself appreciating our Lord and His difficult life all the more.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


The update entry posted yesterday refers to "the talk." This talk is the same talk referenced here and here. The title of the talk is "The First Three Words of the Endowment." It is also referred to as the King Follett discussion. They are one in the same. Many readers have already received this talk. 

If you are a new reader or are being introduced to this talk for the first time, and you would like a copy of it, you need to leave your email address in the comment section. I can still get the comments, but I will not put any of them up. Your email will be private. 

There is NO other way to receive a copy of this.  If you would like it leave a comment on the blog.

Thanks -- CM

Friday, November 19, 2010


Here are a couple of updates:

First, I still receive requests for copies of the talk.  I get those and will respond.  We (Steph and I) like to wait till there's five or more and respond to them as a group.  But we do respond and you will get copies of the talk. 

Second, I just finished speaking with the publisher and printer and we have set in motion getting all of the books available on Kindle.  That process takes a few weeks before it is actually available.  However, it has been set in motion and all the titles will be available on Kindle as soon as the process is completed.

The blog will become available as a book soon, as well.  At present the footnoting of scripture references is occupying the effort.  Once that is completed we will submit it for printing, as well and it will become available on thereafter.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I have finished what I needed to cover

I have finished what I needed to cover.
This blog will become a book. As it gets into final form I may add a few things from 3rd Nephi that haven't been covered here. When it's out, I'll let you know.

There is another book completely unrelated to this blog I need to begin to work on. I need the time I have spent on this to turn to that instead.

When I've finished the next book I'll make it a point to include news of that here. I'm going to leave this up, and will add to it from time to time. In the event I have something to say, I will post here. Check back occasionally.

Here's an important closing thought - its seems Youkilis, Pedroia and Ellsbury are all recovering nicely. The Red Sox have resigned Ortiz, and will be a force to reckon with again next year (barring injuries). I have to say, however, that the AL East was altogether a playoff disappointment. I get why the BoSox were out of it, but the Rays and Yankees were a complete disappointment. I was hoping the Rangers would win, but I'm good with SF Giants.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

3 Nephi 18: 31-32

3 Nephi 18: 31-32:

"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. 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. 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."
Even if you know someone has violated the commandment, has partaken unworthily after you have forbidden them to do so, even then you are "not to cast him out from among you." Instead the Lord puts on His disciples the burden of making intercession for him, praying "unto the Father, in [Christ's] name" for such a man. For the Lord reminds us that, "if it so be that he repenteth and is baptized in [His] name" then the man's repentance will take care of his failure.
Notice the burden on His disciples. What does it mean to "minister unto him" who has transgressed? What does it mean to "pray for him unto the Father" when you know he has eaten and drank "damnation unto his soul?" Why would the Lord have His followers first forbid, then, when the forbidding fails, to follow it up with patience and prayer for the offender? Is this another extension of the teachings the Lord gave in the sermon previously? Does this again testify to you of how serious the Lord is about how kind and patient we are with others?
How long are you to bear with the offender, hoping for his repentance? When do you decide that he is determined to "repent not?" What does it mean, after you have determined the man will not repent that "he shall not be numbered among my people?" What does that suggest about further fellowship with that man? Why would that be coupled with "that he may not destroy my people?"  What would such an unrepentant man need to do before you could decide he was attempting to "destroy my people?" How would you decide that?
Now, even if you think you have a basis for deciding all this against the man, "nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out of your synagogues, or your places of worship." Did you see that? We are not to forbid even the man who is intent upon destroying the Lord's people from our places of worship. What selfless behavior is this? Enduring persecution! It is as if the Lord expects His followers to bless those who curse them, to do good to them who despitefully use them.
Why such patience? Because "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." If there is a chance for repentance, the Lord wants us to bear with, succor and uplift the non-repentant soul who drinks damnation. How often we would do otherwise. Christ instructs us to be more like Him in all we do. It is only by this patience, kindness, gentleness and meekness that He has been able to save my soul. Can a grateful person do anything less for another? Can we expect to forebear any less with the unrepentant than the Lord has with us?
How godlike the Master is in all His teachings. How much higher are His ways than are ours.
The Lord affirms that He knows His sheep. Not only knows them, but "they are numbered" to Him. He cares for each of them.
If we can add another to His fold by our own patient ministrations, then we ought to readily do so. If we do, then He will give us the credit for what we have done: "ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them." Did you catch that? He gives us the credit for the success! We merely follow what He instructs us to do, and if there is any benefit realized He gives us the credit for doing so. Our Savior is more than a good example. He is perfect in all His doings. It is little wonder that in the end every knee will bow before Him. Gratitude will bring some to their knees. Shame will bring the rest. No one will expect to stand or sit in His presence. For in Him we find a soul of such greatness that kneeling alone can give vent to the feelings He inspires.

Nephi 18: 28-29

"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;  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."

This commandment about partaking of the bread and wine is the one He needed them to understand. They should take precautions to prevent those who they know to be unworthy from partaking. The reason is merciful. When they partake of His flesh and blood unworthily, they establish a testimony before the Father of their unworthiness.

Remember the bread and wine become a testimony to the Father. (See 3 Nephi 18: 10.) The observance comes to the attention of the Father. It is a witness before Him. Therefore, when the flesh and blood are taken by those who are unworthy, the witness which comes to the Father is of their unworthiness. The Father cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. (D&C 1: 31.)  When a person comes before the Father in a witness of their unworthiness, such a person "eateth and drinketh damnation to his soul." This person has asked the Father to take notice of their unworthiness.

It is the responsibility of those who minister these things to "forbid him" in such circumstances. They are their brother's keeper. Though it may be difficult for the person to be warned, it is merciful to do so. The sacrament is to be offered to the worthy, never offered to the unworthy. The worthy should "forbid" the unworthy from taking.

This is not an unkind teaching. It is not exclusionary or discriminatory. It is based on the doctrine Christ teaches, and the import of the act which witnesses to the Father. That witness occurs whenever the sacrament is properly administered, with appropriate power to bless, in a setting the Lord has authorized, by those who have repented and are properly baptized. Among such people the bread and wine should be given only to those who are worthy.

Now, the responsibility is on the ones administering the bread and wine. But the duty only extends to those who are "knowingly... unworthy." That is, the ones who administer are not obligated to police others. They are not required to interview and determine worthiness. They are only to take note of such things as come to their attention and require the conclusion that the recipient is "unworthy." Obvious misdeeds are important, private matters and individual failings are not consequential to the ones administering the rite.

"Therefore, if ye know that a man is unworthy to eat and drink [Christ's] flesh and blood ye shall forbid him." But only if you "know" such is the case. Then, you should "forbid" him from doing so.  Not by force, but by refusing to minister the sacrament to him. This becomes impractical, however, when it is a tray passed down a row of people, who cannot be forbidden to partake. In that kind of ceremony, the individual cannot be forbidden except through general teaching and warning. Then the individual is free to choose for themselves whether to heed the caution or to ignore it. The question remains, however, if that relieves the persons ministering the sacrament from their obligation to "forbid him" if he is known to be unworthy.

These are interesting points. All the more so because the Lord has taken the time to teach us these principles. And for Him to teach them, and provide them to us as part of restoring the Gospel to our day, I presume that informs us these points are to be followed.

Whether we choose to follow His teachings or not becomes, for most of us, a matter of convention and acceptance of popular behavior. If these teachings are found in the Book of Mormon, but not observed by us in how we proceed each Sabbath, then we tend to feel comfortable that what we do is right and the text has been corrected by modern practice. It is an interesting conclusion to draw. One which, upon careful examination, does not always leave us with the same feeling of comfort.

Well, the Lord had this to say about us in 1832: "your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received— Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all. 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: 54-57). 

I am glad others are responsible for enacting the Church Handbook of Instructions, and not me. I was glad to attend the leadership meeting and be again informed about this newly revised handbook for use today. It was just a few short years ago President Hinckley's administration reduced it by a third. Now it has been further reduced by 12%. That is, in my view, a very healthy trend. If this keeps up we may eventually wind up with nothing but the scriptures to guide us.

Monday, November 15, 2010

3 Nephi 18: 26-27

"And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words, he turned his eyes again upon the Disciples whom he had chosen, and said unto them: Behold verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you another commandment, and then I must go unto my Father that I may fulfil other commandments which he hath given me."

Christ first introduced Himself by reference to the Father in 3 Nephi 11:11. He reiterates the connection between Him and the Father again in this scripture. He does not only testify of the Father. He makes it clear that everything done is by the will or command of the Father.
If Christ is the example in all things (and He is). Then in this He serves once again to clarify things for us.
Christ did not come to do His own will, but submitted to the will of the Father. Just like Christ submitted to the will of the Father, we too are invited to submit to the example and teachings of Christ. We ought to put away our own agendas. We ought to give credit to Him. We follow Him, we trust Him, we seek His will.
This is not just a passing point. It is the central point. Studying to know, and then working to do the will of Christ is our responsibility.

As Christ served the Father, we are to serve Him.
Christ becomes our Father when we are born again. He is the one who liberates us from sin, and will liberate us from death. Our resurrected bodies come to us as a gift from Him. Therefore, He is literally the Father of our bodies, because they return to us as a gift from Him.
As Christ has set an example in following the Father, He has thereby become our Father. We follow Him if we are hoping to go where He is.
Notice also the Lord has "other commandments" which He knows He is obligated to fulfill. The Lord has a continuing ministry under the direction of the Father. His ministry is not confined to the appearances we have in current scripture, but comprehends visits to those who have faith in Him throughout the world. He continues that ministry today, as promised in John 14: 18.
Part of the "commandments which [the Father] hath given" to Christ include the ministry to save, redeem and teach those who abide the conditions to be taught. Today as in times past.

3 Nephi 18: 24-25

"Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up—that which ye have seen me do. Behold ye see that I have prayed unto the Father, and ye all have witnessed.  And ye see that I have commanded that none of you should go away, but rather have commanded that ye should come unto me, that ye might feel and see; even so shall ye do unto the world; and whosoever breaketh this commandment suffereth himself to be led into temptation."
Here is another clarification for the earlier sermon. When admonished to "let your light so shine before this people that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (3 Nephi 12: 16) what the Lord meant is that it is He who should be held up. He alone. Not you, or your good intentions, your conspicuous acts or philanthropy. Not you at all. Him.
The obligation to hold up a light is circumscribed by His direction that He "is the light which ye shall hold up." Nothing and no one else. He is the lifeline. Therefore, when you offer, preach, teach, exhort and expound, He must be at the center of this prophesying, or you are engaging in priestcraft. (2 Nephi 26: 29.)
The Lord has "prayed unto the Father" in their presence. Therefore, His example points to how prayer is to occur, and to whom it is addressed. They "all have witnessed" this, and know for themselves how it is to be done.

He has not told any of those who were present to go away. He has brought the same message to all. He gives them His example of liberality: "Ye see that I have commanded that none of you should go away, but rather have commanded that ye should come unto me." No one is refused. All are welcomed. Whether those in the multitude thought someone was unworthy, or whether there were some with conflicts, it did not matter. All were invited.  None were refused. They are all "commanded that they should come unto Him."
What is the reason we are commanded to come to Him? It is so "ye might feel and see." So that you might know Him. So that you can also be a witness of His physical evidence of suffering, crucifixion and death. The wounds He bears could not be received without death. His body testifies that He died. His body also testifies of His resurrection. Despite the wounds which memorialize His suffering and death, He lives! He stands before you in life! He has risen!
As you testify of Him, you must invite others to likewise come "that they might feel and see" Him. This is how witnesses of Him are commanded to "do unto the world." This is their ministry, their burden, their witness, and their command from Him. When they fail to testify, teach and proclaim, they "break this commandment and suffer themselves to be led into temptation." This is why the Lord required at my hands the book The Second Comforter. That is how He directs all those who are "commanded to come unto Him, that they might feel and see." It will not be in vague innuendo or veiled language. It may not be in a published book, and may well be in private. But they will all be required to invite others to likewise "come unto Him" that everyone "might feel and see" our Risen Lord.
He is accessible. He invites. More than that, He commands. All are commanded and "none of you should go away." We think it a great thing when someone testifies of Him. Yet He wants all to "come" so that everyone "might feel and see" Him.
If we have the same Gospel, we have the same commandments.

The Book of Mormon is, as I have testified in everything I have written, not merely a book of scripture. It is the preeminent volume of scripture for our day.  All other volumes of scripture are not just inferior to it, but vastly so. It is the covenant we are condemned for neglecting. It is the reason I have found Him. For above all else, I have used the Book of Mormon to direct my thoughts, actions, teachings and understanding. Here in these verses we see again - He is inviting us, using the text of the Book of Mormon to find Him, individually, for ourselves.
This Book is the restoration of the Gospel. Unfortunately, most people have missed that. Nevertheless, it is true.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

3 Nephi 18: 21-23

3 Nephi 18: 21-23:

"Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.  And behold, ye shall meet together oft; and ye shall not forbid any man from coming unto you when ye shall meet together, but suffer them that they may come unto you and forbid them not; But ye shall pray for them, and shall not cast them out; and if it so be that they come unto you oft ye shall pray for them unto the Father, in my name."
Interesting that the admonition to "pray in your families" is so "that your wives and your children may be blessed." This puts the burden on whom to pray? For whom are blessings sought? Why?
What does it mean to "meet together oft?" Is that weekly? If so, then why didn't the Lord say "each Sabbath" instead of "oft?" What does meeting "oft" suggest?
Why would you be told to "not forbid any man from coming unto you when ye shall meet together?" What kind of meeting is it? What kinds of meetings are open to the public? Is it appropriate to close some meetings from the public? If so, what distinguishes between those meetings which are to occur "oft" and anyone is invited, and other meetings which are to be private?
What does it mean to "suffer them that they may come unto you and forbid them not?" Why would you be admonished to keep the meetings open for public participation? Why would anyone want to "forbid" others from meeting with them?
Why would you be told to "pray for them, and shall not cast them out" for those who are not part of your group?
Why does the Lord phrase it: "and if it so be that they come unto you oft ye shall pray for them unto the Father, in my name?" Does this suggest that you don't pray for them until they have "come unto you oft?" Why would that be the condition established before you "pray unto the Father" for them?
This is an interesting passage involving an interesting process. Essentially it deals with the un-baptized, the unrepentant, and the unprepared. They are to be welcomed. They are not to be excluded. If they are persistent enough to return frequently, then you have an obligation to pray to the Father for them.  Once they have seen the manner of worship, if they remain interested, they are to be prayed for, and perhaps brought in to the group. Not in a frantic, "we-need-another-baptism-today" kind of way. No rush. Instead, they need to "come unto you oft" of their own free will. They must be interested. They must be motivated by their own desire to know more. They should not be force-fed and "converted" by argument, persuasion, or aggressive marketing. They should be gently brought to see the truth of the Lord in the worship they observe first.
This is an interesting concept. This is inviting to come to the light by the light the believers possess. It is meekness, gentleness and ultimately love unfeigned. It is quite Christ-like.
I suppose a convert who came to believe in this manner would have thought it through before joining with the believers. Such a person would be unlikely to ever depart from the way. They would have ample opportunity to know beforehand whether they find it enticing, inviting, and desirable. Good fruit, so to speak. Something they want to have for themselves.
The Lord's ways are indeed interesting to contemplate. This great God of heaven proceeds in meekness in all that He does. He teaches meekness to those who will follow Him, as well

Saturday, November 13, 2010

3 Nephi 18: 19-20

3 Nephi 18: 19-20:

"Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name;  And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you." 
When you "always pray unto the Father" in Christ's name, there will be an inevitable closeness between you and Him. You draw closer to those with whom you associate. Praying always triggers that association. As with everything else, it is dynamic, not static. You move closer or you move farther apart, but you do not remain static.

What does "whatsoever ye shall ask" include? If you think Christ is inviting you to turn the Father into a short-order cook, jumping to your will, you do not understand this process. However, this is how some people view prayer. It is a list of wants, desires and aspirations to be imposed on the Father.

What does the limitation "which is right" do to modify "whatsoever ye shall ask?"

What does the phrase "whatsoever ye shall ask, which is right" mean?
Who determines whether a request you make "is right?" What about those occasions when the Lord invites someone to "ask anything of Him"? (See, e.g., 1 Kings 3: 5; 3 Nephi 28: 1--if you do not understand this concept it is explained in Beloved Enos. It occurs in a very specific setting.) Is there any limit to what might be asked at that moment? What does that suggest about those persons this offer is extended?
The purpose of this teaching by the Lord is to invite harmony between those who ask, and the Father, who gives. Inspired requests to Him are intended to come to you by revelation, so you may understand what you should ask.  Then, when you have conformed your will to His, what you receive is according to His will, and not your own.

Throughout, the Lord is leading those who will follow into a condition of unity with the Father and the Son. The goal has always been the same. The teachings have always been the same. The Lord's great Intercessory Prayer taught the same concept. (John 17: 1-26.) The ability to be "one" with them is not accomplished by men persuading God to follow man's will. It is accomplished in the same manner as Christ accomplished it. That is, by conforming to the will of the Father even when it is painful, or terribly burdensome. (See, e.g. D&C 19: 18-19; 3 Nephi 11: 11.)
The whole meaning of this promise is captured in the qualification that it must be that "which is right." If you acquire an understanding of what "is right" then by asking for it, you submit to the Father's will. Even if you would shrink from it, beg that it may pass from you, and cower at the thing required of you.  When you "ask of the Father in Christ's name" for whatsoever "is right" despite your desire for things to be otherwise, you are going to become one with Them. Then you will be like Them. At this time you will learn the great truth that the will of the Father IS indeed "whatsoever is right."
Joseph Smith explained it: "When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints." The way heaven knows a man has arrived at that point is by the offered prayers. When they seek to do the will of the Father, and the requests are "what is right," then the heavens cannot withhold anything from that man. Indeed, the Lord will prompt the right questions by what the Lord says to that man, so that the knowledge of that man will reach into the heavens. (See Ether 3: 9-20.)
Therefore, you must not only "pray always unto the Father in Christ's name," but you must also grow in understanding, humility and meekness so you may "ask the Father" for that "which is right." This is a process. Christ is explaining it in His sermon.

Friday, November 12, 2010

3 Nephi 18: 17-18

3 Nephi 18: 17-18:

"And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto his Disciples, he turned again unto the multitude and said unto them: Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat."

The image of Satan "sifting as wheat" is interesting for several reasons. One involves the early claim, now discredited, that the ancient Nephite civilization did not cultivate wheat. Under that argument they would not have understood the analogy. However, once stores of ancient wheat and barley were discovered, the criticism was debunked. There's a BYU article on this by Robert R. Bennett titled "Barley and Wheat in the Book of Mormon."

Satan "desires to have you." You are wanted. Not because he has your best interest in mind, but because he wants control. He wants to gain power over others, limit their choices, and make them his slaves.

The manner wheat was sifted was to use a sieve to separate grain from husks, tares, stones and other chaff. The wheat would be kept, the refuse tossed into a pile to be discarded. Sifting was vigorous and tossed the grain about to separate it. This suggests being completely under Satan's control, being tossed about, and being discarded. It is a horrifying image, because the result would be domination by the adversary of your soul.

Satan's great desire has always been to separate men from their agency. He seeks to enslave those who fall under his power. Using wickedness, appetites of the flesh, drug dependence or other addictions, the end goal is always the same. He seeks control. He craves the god-like power to have dominion over others. Since he forfeited any right to gain power in a godly way, he seeks now ungodly power through coercion and compulsion.

Whenever you find compulsion, dominion, control, or force being employed, you have found Satan. (D&C 121: 37-41.) He wants to cut you off from heaven, and  uses control to limit access to the heavens. When people voluntarily surrender their responsibility to follow the Lord, Satan has acquired by persuasion what he craves to acquire through force.

The antidote for falling under Satan's control is to "watch and pray always."  Why watch? Why "pray always?"

To watch is to be observant and detect elements of control, dominion and compulsion. It is to become vigilant in separating the will of men from the will of God. It is to keep the Lord's teachings in mind, and to measure any person's teachings, actions and persuasions against the standard the Lord has explained.

To "pray always" is to retain a personal connection with heaven. Particularly, to retain that connection through the Holy Ghost, and through Christ's Spirit, you seek to always have with you. If this is a lively connection, you are able to avoid being "sifted." If it lapses into darkness, you are vulnerable to being taken captive.

These are simple expressions anyone can understand. It is not the difficulty of the teaching, but the difficulty of the implementation which keeps people bound in darkness. Traditions, widespread acceptance of false ideas, excuses for failure, and rationalizations for why things are as they are, all prevent us from reading these teachings with the eyes of a child. The Lord's teachings are distorted even as they are being read by the blinders we wear. When the eye is filled with darkness, how great is the darkness within. Christ spoke about that in the previous sermon.

3 Nephi 18: 16

3 Nephi 18: 16:

"And as I have prayed among you even so shall ye pray in my church, among my people who do repent and are baptized in my name. Behold I am the light; I have set an example for you."
The "prayer" referred to here is the sacrament prayer. There is one among the twelve disciples who is given power to dedicate the emblems of the sacrament. But all of them are to do likewise in the Church in the future.
He has provided the example for them to follow. He has taught them how, and then demonstrated how. He has explained why. Now He tells them to do "even so" in His church.
But notice once again the Lord defines His church. It is those who "do repent and are baptized in [His] name." This ordinance is not for those who are casual investigators of His doctrine. It is not for those who, though baptized, have not repented. It is reserved for those having the proper qualifications. Without having done these things first, the sacrament of the Lord's body and blood are eaten and drank to their condemnation. Instead of it being a testimony before the Father of their faithfulness, it becomes a testimony of their unfaithfulness.
Notice the Lord explains His role as "light." He "set an example for you" and therefore is "the light." The "light" is the guide. It is the pattern. It shows you the way to go. He has done that in word and in action, so that He can claim to be the "light" for those to follow.

In turn, He has told these disciples they must also become "a light unto the people." (3 Nephi 15: 12.) To accomplish that it is essential they must "set an example for" them; meaning that they follow as the Lord has led them. Not an example of vainglory or superiority. Instead to meekly do as He has bidden them to do. Adding nothing, leaving nothing undone. Honing in on the things He would have done, and going about to do them.
The "light" must reflect the Lord's teachings and the Father's will. Otherwise it is darkness. A light cannot shine as His if it is distorted to reflect credit upon the man rather than the True Light, our Lord. When an erring soul entertains mistaken admiration for a man, they are damned. (D&C 76: 99-101.) Therefore, if a person is called upon to be a light, they cannot seek to attract notice for themselves.
The Lord saves. Messengers sent by Him point to Him. They mirror His acts, teachings and practices. They do not seek their own will, but only the will of Him who sends them.
Throughout this visit between the Lord and the Nephites, we are given an extended view of how the Lord establishes His church and doctrine. So long as it is followed, it has the power to allow mankind to always have His Spirit to be with the followers. However, when they depart from the practices and keep merely a form of godliness, they lose the power He sends to us.
These teachings are important enough for the Lord to dwell on, and Mormon to etch them into metal plates. They should be carefully studied, explicitly followed, and greatly appreciated.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

3 Nephi 18: 15

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him."
The caution is always added to "watch and pray always." It is not enough to fall into the correct way. You must prevent, at every turn, a misstep taking you off that path.
The devil always tempts to "do more or less" than we are instructed. To accomplish his desired results, the devil only needs to persuade you to do a little more, or do a little less, and he will have succeeded. He does not need to cut you off by a great big sin when a small one will work just as well.
Lately, we've been looking carefully at the details of the account of the sacrament among the Nephites. As with anything, varying this by "more or less" is a temptation. That temptation comes from the devil. He knows better than any of us that changing ordinances is intended to rob them of their efficacy.
When good intentions lead to the conclusion that you can or ought to change an ordinance in any particular, it does not matter how well intended the underlying reason is for the change. The purpose is to defile. As Isaiah put it: "The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant." (Isa. 24: 5.)  For what reason would you change the Lord's ordinances:

-People are not interested in them?
-People are offended by them?
-They seem to include unimportant details?
-They seem to conflict with your understanding of another scripture?
-The performance is uninspiring to the skeptical mind?
-The performance can be improved by a change?
-They seem to hold no real meaning?
-They can have better acceptance if altered?
-People no longer know or understand them?
-People just don't care enough to observe the details?
Perhaps there are ten-thousand reasons for making a change. Maybe you are not tempted by all, but just one of those reasons. But so long as there is one reason which persuades you, that is enough. The devil knows he must only persuade you on one point, one time to get you to change the ordinance. Once he has managed that, he has robbed the ordinance of power, defiled the earth because of its inhabitants, persuaded you to transgress the law, and destroyed the everlasting covenant.
This is a wonderful teaching from Christ. He would like us to be ever watchful precisely because the devil intends to interrupt the Gospel every time it appears on the earth. In general, it takes less than 200 years for an apostasy to set in among the people chosen by God to receive a dispensation of the Gospel. Only in a few isolated instances, among a few people, have there been occasions where the ordinances remained unchanged. Those people successfully resisted every argument presented in favor of changing the ordinances and breaking the covenant with God.

The goal of our adversary is to lead us into captivity. When we lose the key to knowledge because we forfeit the light given by ordinance to us, then we struggle about in the dark. Left to your own reasoning, it is possible to establish all kinds of aberrations, calling bad good, and the light darkness.  Then only isolated voices remain to challenge the overwhelming majority who believe they have improved things by their tampering.
This pattern is warned against by the Lord. He lays bare the source of such things. It is all of the devil. He is the architect of that ruin.
So it is with the entire sermon the Lord has delivered, along with the new ordinance He has just introduced. The whole is meant to be understood and followed. It is the path back to truth and light. It was meant to become our guide, our way of life. For the most part, we have very good reasons why we do not follow it.

3 Nephi 18: 14

"Therefore blessed are ye if ye shall keep my commandments, which the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you."
The Lord's whole purpose is to bless us. He offers blessings freely. But we will not accept them. We refuse to offer an acceptable sacrifice before the Lord. It will be a long time yet before the sons of Levi offer an offering in righteousness to the Lord. (See D&C 13: 1JS-H 1: 69.) The sacramental offering is a type of the earlier Levitical offerings.
However, when an acceptable offering has been made, the Lord will always bless those who keep the commandments respecting His ordinances.

Changing these things in the least robs the ordinances of the very power they were intended to confer. (Isa. 24: 5.)
If you keep His commandments, the inevitable result is a blessing from Him. The greatest of these blessings is, of course, to be remembered by Him in the day of judgment. The next greatest is to always have His Spirit to be with you.
It is of note that Christ points to the Father in all things, and therefore points to the Father in this teaching, as well. The commandments He teaches are those "which the Father hath commanded [Him] that [He] should give unto you." In every respect the Son points to the Father. It is always the Father's will and the Father's glory Christ seeks to uphold. (Moses 4: 2.)
The Son seeks our glory and exaltation, while giving credit to the Father for all He does. Though the Savior occupies the central role in the process, He serves others. Selflessly He instructs us on how we may be blessed and glorified. Selflessly He points to the Father as the one to receive your testimony by obedience. Selflessly He explains the Father is the one who has commanded these things. But through it all, it is Christ who has been the messenger of salvation. He is the one whose sacrifice made possible our redemption. It is Christ whose body and blood we must partake for redemption. It is Christ of whom the Father testifies. (See, e.g., 3 Nephi 11: 7Matt. 17: 5Luke 9: 35.) Christ bears testimony of the Father. The Father bears record of the Son. In one eternal round, they form a circle. It is Christ's work and the Father's commandment which invites us to join in that circle and become one with Them.
How simple the ways provided for us in this condescension of God. How plain the way has been given. Yet we find reasons to do "more or less" than what is asked. For that we forfeit blessings which might otherwise have been ours.
This is powerful material. Assuming we decide to "do" rather than to "say."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

3 Nephi 18: 12-13

3 Nephi 18: 12-13:

"And I give unto you a commandment that ye shall do these things. And if ye shall always do these things blessed are ye, for ye are built upon my rock. But whoso among you shall do more or less than these are not built upon my rock, but are built upon a sandy foundation; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon them, they shall fall, and the gates of hell are ready open to receive them."
The Lord again returns to the earlier sermon's language and meaning. He reiterates how building upon the rock belonging to Him is done by observing the ordinances established by Him.
You should not do "more" than He has commanded.
You must not do "less" than He has instructed.
You must do as He has commanded, instructed, and shown. He does it to provide by His example, the way it is to be done.

If we err it is not because He failed to teach. He has made it plain to us that we may know the way to follow.

When we do more or less, we find ourselves in the sand, and no longer standing upon Him, the Rock of Heaven. (Moses 7: 53.)

Those finding themselves in the tempest of this life, tossed about by the turbulence of the sins and errors found at every turn, will fall if they are not built upon Him, the Rock of Heaven. They cannot withstand the storm because they are not anchored in Him who has the power to endure, to preserve and to save. They may cry out "Lord, Lord" but they did not do what He said. He will respond He never knew them. To be known by Him in that day will require the testimony before the Father to have been made. For the means by which He can recognize and protect them from the gates of hell is found in that testimony before the Father, given as a result of this ordinance.
The way is plain, simple, even easy. It is marked by Him at every turn. There is no great elusive mountain to climb. If we fail, it is because we are unwilling to look to Him and be saved. It is because we despise the simplicity of it all, and look for something more. We refuse to look upon Him who alone can save. (1 Nephi 17: 41.)
It is always amusing to see those who wrongly conclude that the Lord has abandoned His people because they fail to experience any power from Him.  They do not do what the Lord commands, then they fail to receive the blessing He promised. When it is not received, they blame Him. When all along it was their own failure to do as He commanded that caused their problems. (D&C 58: 31-33.)
Those who claim to be His, calling out "Lord, Lord," but who do not do what He has instructed cannot blame the Lord. They have only themselves to blame.

3 Nephi 18: 11

"And this shall ye always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name; and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you."
The prayer pronounced upon the sacrament reflects these same aspirations. However, this is not a petition in prayer, but a promise from the Lord. He affirms that for those who have "repented" of their sins, and "are baptized" in His name, He promises a result.
When, having done as He has asked, a person remembers His blood through this ordinance, bearing in mind that it was shed "for you" then you can properly "witness unto the Father." The witness you make to the Father by this remembrance is that "ye do always remember Christ."
This memorial before the Father, when done right, results in the promise of Christ that "ye shall always have His spirit to be with you."

This is a covenant. This is the Lord promising. His word cannot fail. He is establishing for you the means by which you can have as your guide and companion His Spirit. His light. His presence in your life.
This is more intimate than touching His side, hands and feet. This is to have His Spirit within your touch at all times. You become an extension of Him, properly taking His name upon you. For you are then, indeed, a Christian.
He will christen or anoint you, not with the symbol of oil, but with the reality of His Spirit. This anointing is the real thing, of which the oil was meant only to testify.
The Holy Ghost was intended to become a companion at the time of baptism. The Spirit of Christ is intended to become a companion in your very person as well. When there are two members of the Godhead represented in your living person, then it is the Father who receives this testimony of you, about you, by you and for you. You become His, for these three are one.

There is more going on here than an ordinance and a testimony. This is the means by which a link is formed that can and will result in the Father taking that which is corruptible and changing it into that which is incorruptible. Though, like Christ, a man or woman may be required to lay down their life, they shall have power given them to take it up again. For that which has been touched by the incorruptible power of His Spirit cannot be left without hope in the grave. All such people die firm in the knowledge they are promised a glorious resurrection. (D&C 138: 14.)

This, then, is eternal life.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

3 Nephi 18: 10

3 Nephi 18: 10:

"And when the Disciples had done this, Jesus said unto them: Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you."

The phrasing is ambiguous but becomes clear from context. The reference to "big-D" disciples actually introduces the ambiguity. If the printer had left it "little-d" disciples then the meaning would be clear. The "thing which ye have done" is a reference to partaking of the wine. By introducing the "big-D" disciple term it can change the entire thing to be "the thing which ye have done" is to pass the sacrament, rather than to partake of it.

Well, the "thing which ye have done" that prompts the Lord to proclaim "Blessed are ye" is to have symbolically partaken of His blood. They have a part of Him by having eaten of His flesh and drank of His blood. They are now among those who demonstrate they hunger and thirst after righteousness. They are disciples indeed. Followers of the Master. Obedient to Him and willing to take His name upon them.

This is again identified as a "witness unto the Father" rather than a witness unto anyone else. It is not even a witness unto Christ. Nor is it a witness unto one another. It is a witness unto the Father.

This sacred event marks the testimony of faith by those who follow the Lord as a witness to the Father. These people prove they have faith in, and will obey His Son. The Father provided the Son as the Redeemer of all mankind. The only way back into the exalted state of the Father is through the saving sacrifice of the Son. It was the Son who opened the door for that return by the burdens He assumed while in His mortal body. He came under the same circumstances we did. He was separated from the Father by the veil. He suffered weaknesses of the body. He suffered the temptations of mankind, and He gave them no heed. (D&C 20: 22.) This made it possible for Him to bring many others to glory. (Heb. 2: 10.)

To have part in His glory, we must partake of His flesh and blood. Both symbolically by our own bodies being made a living sacrifice, (Romans 12: 1) and through ordinance by partaking of the symbols of His life, death, resurrection. For the body of Christ rose from the dead, and we have that same hope. If we are to follow Him, we must be like Him. Taking upon ourselves His flesh and blood is not optional. It must be done to testify to the Father, who alone accepts us into His family. If we think to take upon us the name of Christ, but fail to have this witness before the Father, then we have failed to secure the required testimony before the Father.

This is a required process for those who are His.

3 Nephi 18: 9

"And it came to pass that they did so, and did drink of it and were filled; and they gave unto the multitude, and they did drink, and they were filled."
Partaking of the broken bread filled the disciples, and then the multitude, so again drinking the wine filled both.

What were they filled with?
Since this is an ordinance where the promised result is to "have His Spirit to be with them," (3 Nephi 18: 7) is any meaning of "filled" adequate apart from being filled with His Spirit? Clearly this ceremony is not performed to merely fill the belly. It hearkens back to His promise to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, that they are to be filled. What the Lord presents in ceremony is the fulfillment of the earlier promise in His sermon. There is a beautiful symmetry to His sermon, His promise, the catalyst ordinance, and the reality of being "filled" which is missing from the New Testament record. In this respect, as in so many others, the Book of Mormon is the preferred, and more revealing account of the Lord's ministry.
The Lord's work is to bring about redemption for mankind. He redeems. In ceremony, and now in reality, He is working with a multitude to bring about their preparation and redemption. It is a Master Teacher, proving by His words and deeds, that He knows how to lead souls to salvation.
It is of interest that the record prepared by Mormon in such a painstaking effort takes the time to include these details for our instruction. They are intended not merely as history, but also as a guide. The plan of salvation is to be shared, so that others may follow it and themselves be "filled" with His Spirit.

Now note the prayers all refer to Christ's Spirit. This is something apart from the Holy Ghost. It is Christ's Spirit which is to "always be with them."

What does it mean to have Christ's Spirit to be with you? To guide you?
This is an important point, and worthy of some discussion by Joseph in The Lectures on Faith.  If you haven't revisited that little book and that discussion for a while, you may want to do that. I've recommended that it be read once a year. The Lectures on Faith was added to the scriptures as part of the Doctrine and Covenants. It was subsequently removed without a Church vote to agree to its removal. However, the new publications adding sections were sustained, and the tradition we have is that by sustaining the new versions with additions, it implies we also sustained the deletions. Therefore, they stand removed. Despite that, it is worth another read through, much like reading any scripture, it should happen at least annually.
The Spirit of Christ is also referred to in Section 84: 45-47. It is also described using the word "light" instead of His Spirit, in Section 88: 5-13. If you read those carefully you realize that connecting with His Spirit or His light will also put you in contact with everything else governed by Him. He is the light which "enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;" 
This is why Joseph commented that the closer a man draws to God the clearer his understanding will be on all subjects. Greater light means clearer perception. It involves discerning between truth and error. It allows you to see what is dark, and who is dark, and what is light and who is filled with light. The light of a person's countenance is upon them, and if the Lord's Spirit fills you then you can see others just as He sees them.
It was His Spirit that enabled the Nephites to become one. With it, Zion becomes possible. Without it, Zion is only a theory to be abused and misunderstood. Without it, Zion is a vain ambition of conspiring men. It will not come to pass. With His Spirit, Zion is inevitable, because He will bring again Zion. If you would like to see the course of this doomed people changed at least as to your part, then these teachings and following these ordinances are the means by which the Lord's Spirit becomes available to you.