Monday, December 15, 2014

Isaiah 5-6

(December 15, 2014)

                Oftentimes there is a great deal of confusion in the Church about whether we are a Church of volunteers or a Church of assignees.  I think that Isaiah demonstrates well that we are both.  Something needs to be done, and we are given the opportunity to volunteer (and it is an opportunity).  Our volunteering isn’t enough, however, because of those who volunteer someone must be chosen or assigned.  Otherwise we end up steadying the ark, and that never ends well.

Mormon 8

(December 15, 2014)
                I can only imagine how difficult things were for Moroni at this time.  It is no wonder he thought he wasn’t long for the world – kin was an essential element of survival in those days, and I figure he was fairly ambivalent in how long he lived after the death of his entire society.  And yet, even in the face of those incredible negatives Moroni not only persevered but did so with a grateful heart.  He is someone that is well worth living up to.

                The next thought I had was on the mistakes of men.  I think of the ‘ageless’ Amos in 4 Nephi and how many people stumble on what could in fact be a mistake.  So let us consider that Mormon or a contemporary of Amos made a mistake in the record (or even that Joseph made an error in translation).  If Christ came to the Nephites, then none of the mistakes matter because the fact that Joseph got anything right demonstrates his prophetic calling.  There are, undoubtedly, mistakes of men in the scriptures (although there are less than at first it might appear).  But these mistakes do not somehow invalidate the work of the Lord – it is only argued that it does to excuse disobedience from the commandments.

                Finally, I thought of Moroni’s language about the day when miracles are done away with.  I think it likely that all people in all times felt like they were living in a time when miracles were done away with.  I know there are a large number of those people living in the world today.  But at the same time they declare that the days of miracles are over (if, in their opinion, they ever even existed) I find my life overflowing with miracles.  Some are improbable coincidences, some are brief moments of inspiration, some are moments of comfort and strength beyond my own being given, and (of course) at rare times the Lord has reached into my life and done things that refuse any explanation other than miracle.  One such miracle in a lifetime, a miracle that cannot be explained away by a scientific explanation (although I do believe the Lord works through natural means) and you realize that regardless of how others feel or what they believe, the days of miracles never went away.  One such experience turns all the arguments into empty words.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Isaiah 3-4

(December 14, 2014)
                I had two thoughts going through these chapters.  The first was on the idea of being oppressed by our neighbors.  We might think this doesn’t happen nowadays, but compared to the level of community that existed in the time of Isaiah I cannot help but recognize that this prophecy has been fulfilled fully and completely.  How often do we find ourselves dealing with people who don’t have our interests in mind, or for whom we don’t have their best interests at heart?  This is likely true for many of us a substantial portion of the day.  For some of us, the majority of our daily interactions are with those who seek to oppress us.

                The second thought was on Isaiah 4:5.  What a powerful scripture this is.  We know that the children of Israel were led during their wanderings in the desert by a cloud of smoke in the day and a pillar of fire by night.  What Isaiah is promising is that each house (not just the people as a whole) will be led by this cloud of smoke and pillar of fire.  In other words, Isaiah is prophesying about the day when each and every person will have the Holy Ghost and become personally directed by the Lord in what they should do.  I cannot imagine a greater blessing to be promised to us.

Mormon 6-7

(December 14, 2014)
                I have heard, recently, about those who tell us that we are not obligated to take any calling that is issued to us.  We are told that we are to consider the calling, our available time and demands, and then make a judgment as to whether we should or should not serve.  This, frankly, is hogwash – while I admit that we are able to take the issue before the Lord and the Lord may inspire us to refuse a calling we must never refuse a calling based upon our best judgment just because we might have a lot going on in our lives.

                Look at Mormon as an example of this.  He was the leader of his people during a time of war.  He was gathering everyone together for a final battle that likely was going to end in the destruction of his people, his society, his family, and his way of life.  If ever there was someone who had a lot going on in his life (and important things, too) it was Mormon.  But Mormon knew that regardless of what other demands were placed upon his time he was obligated to serve God first.  And so, we read of him putting priority on the record-keeping assignment and getting that done and prepared to hand off to Moroni.

Isaiah 1-2

(December 13, 2014)

                Isaiah’s description of the people with silver, gold, no ends to their treasures, and no end to their idols is one that should concern us.  Even the poorest among us in this country live better than the kings and queens of a few centuries ago.  We have gold, silver, and no end to our treasures.  And yet, we also have no end to our idols.  The problem for us, of course, is that our gold, silver, and treasures become our idols.  Thus at the very time we multiply those things that we want, we fill our lives with those wants to the point where they displace our needs and bring us misery.

Mormon 5

(December 13, 2014)
                So many of our problems in life come from the same source as the one that destroyed the Nephites.  We have our aims and goals, and they may even be righteous ones (the Nephites wanted to survive, and we might want to provide for our families).  The problem comes when we forget that we are in the hands of God.  When that happens, we struggle for our goals without calling on God for the blessings we stand in need of.  If we do that, we have lost what is truly important regardless of whether we acquire or lose what we sought instead.

                So if we devote ourselves to our work and struggle at our jobs, but we fail to call upon God for help, then one of two things will happen.  Either we will achieve our work-related goals (destroying ourselves in the process), or we will fail to achieve our work-related goals (the better of the two options, because it puts us in mind to call upon the Lord).  If, instead, we seek that goal but rely upon the Lord to magnify our efforts, then one of two things will happen.  Either we will achieve our goal (as a blessing from the Lord), which will enlarge our faith, or we will fail to achieve our goal, which can only happen if the Lord in His wisdom and mercy knows that failing to achieve that goal would lead to a greater blessing for us (thus we are protected from the wrong goals).

                In other words, if we rely on the arm of flesh there is no way to succeed regardless of what happens.  If we rely on the arm of faith, there is no way to fail regardless of what happens.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Ecclesiastes 10-12

(December 12, 2014)

                All of this book, and Proverbs, are very neatly summarized by the closing instruction to fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  Ultimately there is really only one question in mortality – what think ye of Christ? – and only one command – “Come follow me.”  There are no half-way measures that work, we must be prepared to fully and completely turn our wills and our lives over to our Savior, and we must trust Him and exercise sufficient faith in Him that we can stand with Him and (ultimately) do all that He asks of us.  Anything short of that just isn’t enough – we must be prepared to fully walk the path of the disciple.