Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Daniel 7

(March 17, 2015)
                It would be fair to say that I am often Panglossian in my approach to this world.  I take the perspective that the world and everything in it is a perfect culmination of God’s perfect plan.  With that firmly in my mind, it makes it much easier to deal with the setbacks and trials of life, because I can trust that they will result to the ultimate glory of God (and my happiness).

                While I believe that I am correct to do this, I sometimes carry it too far and start to mistakenly think that because I am doing what I should that good temporal results should come my way.  Of course, we have no such promise of that.  In fact, if anything we have the opposite expectations.  As Daniel said, the enemies made war with the saints and prevailed against them.  It was only with the coming of Christ and Adam back to the Earth that the circumstances were capable of being changed.

                Temporal peace and prosperity are not the natural condition for disciples of Christ, and when we have the opportunity to experience them it should be with the deepest of gratitude.  Meanwhile our trials and adversity will be for our benefit, but we cannot expect to escape these trials so long as this world is in its fallen condition.

Alma 3-4

(March 17, 2015)
                It seems that the less grounded that a belief is to the Spirit, the stronger we feel the need to defend that belief from those who disagree with us.  When my testimony was fragile (and intellectual), I would argue with those who did not hold to my beliefs with passion.  My arguments were often good, but they were rarely Christ-like.

                On the other hand, as my testimony has been changed over into the Spiritual conversion that was far too long coming (because of my weakness), I find that the arguments that I would have made I often don’t make any more.  If someone believes otherwise, I find it easier to love them and invite them rather than needing to confront them.  As my testimony is strengthened, my concern of others believing differently than I do because less pernicious.  Now I want others to experience the same blessings as I do, rather than needing others to believe as I do for my benefit.

                I think that this is a general mortal response.  I have seen in others that the strongest and most vocal advocates for many positions are those who seem to be the most fragile in their beliefs.  This correlates with the apostates now, and with the apostates described in this chapter.  After having left the faith (whether partially or all but in name), they turned on those who did not believe according to their will and pleasure to persecute them.  We see that now, as those who disagree with the Church will attack anyone who holds to the Church and its teachings (sheeple, Morbots, etc. – as though only people who had not encountered opposing arguments could possibly hold to the Church).  I think this is a similar symptom – these attacks come because of the fragility of the apostates’ beliefs in their new position rather than a position of strength.

Daniel 5-6

(March 16, 2015)
                I have always been struck by the language discussing Daniel praying – that he prayed and gave thanks “as he did aforetime.”  Daniel was able to keep the commandments in difficult situations only because he was keeping the commandments in the peaceful, easy times.

                So often we try to fool ourselves into believing that in the moment of crisis we will find ourselves standing bravely on the side of right and truth.  But we will only be there if we can be found there during the times when the crisis is yet to come.  If we don’t boldly share our testimony when the cost is a little bit of social approbation, how could we possibly be brave enough to share our testimony when the cost is our lives or fortunes?  If we aren’t strong enough to keep the commandments when we have food to eat and shelter to live in, how can we keep the commandments when our world crumbles around us?

Alma 2

(March 16, 2015)
                I think we, as members of the Church, are a bit na├»ve when it comes the motivations of others (particularly our political leaders – on both sides of the aisle).  The prophet Mormon, in his commentary, explicitly states that the purpose of Amilici was to destroy the Church, and all of the political machinations were secondary to that.

                The first issue is, really, there is only one question in mortality (what think ye of Christ) and everything else is an illusion to distract us from this central fact.  So when actions are taken in opposition to the work of the Lord, at best they are taken under the influence of Satan and at worst are taken by actual enemies of the work of the Lord.

                We members of the Church need to remember that there are, in fact, people who want to destroy the Church both from without and from within.  Where we run into problems, though, is when we forget that we, often, are those trying to destroy the Church.  We err when we ignore these threats, but we err worse when we fail to recognize each of our need to repent of our own moral failings and instead focus in on the failings of others.

                If we purify our hearts, the Lord will be able to speak to us and tell us when and where to defend the faith.  We must get (and stay) clean to hear the message, but then we must not allow an ideology that denies the reality of enemies to the Church to compel us to ignore such revelation if and when it comes.

                The other thought that I had was on the position of Alma’s army during the conflict.  Mormon clearly understood just what a perilous position they were in (and were forced to be in because of the threat to their children and families).  They were tactically outmaneuvered and numerically outnumbered.  Their technological advances were not mentioned here (and presumably did not exist yet, as they were mentioned later).  The only thing that they had to rely on was the Lord and the just nature of their cause.

                This isn’t always enough (there have been righteous armies that have lost), but it was enough because the Lord chose to make it enough that day.  There was no practical reason for their victory, with the challenges stacked against them (obvious even to me, with the little I understand about military tactics).  When things become hopeless, we may continue to rely on the Lord if we are about His work.  If He chooses to bring us success, He can do it regardless of how dire our circumstances.  Otherwise, we can fight the good fight and enter into His rest.

Daniel 4

(March 15, 2015)
                There are those who will make a huge deal about the change in narrative perspective in Alma 56:52 when Helaman’s letter was abridged by Mormon and the first-person narration was replaced by third-person narration for that verse.  I have seen those who have viewed this change as though it was ‘proof’ that the Book of Mormon was a fraud.

                But here we have an authentic historical document (redacted much closer in time to the original than was Helaman’s record) that does the same thing.  Notice the change in perspective starting in verse 28 and continuing until verse 33 – with no effort to change from a description of the writing of Nebuchadnezzar to the redactor’s own words, the viewpoint just changes.  I don’t know that this proves much (I certainly cannot argue that it proves a technique of ancient abridgement practices), but what it does prove is that Alma 56:52 is not, by its nature, evidence of Joseph Smith’s ‘fraud’ the way opponents of the Book of Mormon want it to be perceived.

Alma 1

(March 15, 2015)
                The heroism of Gideon reaches its end here, and it is an end of violence and brutality.  The hero does not get to die in his bed in his old age – he is not only killed, but killed by his enemy in public in his home time while the ideology of this enemy continues ascendant.

                Yet that doesn’t change the fact that Gideon was a hero.  Just because the hero doesn’t always win (in a temporal sense), we still should look to these heroes and emulate those aspects of their characters that can help us to build and become the people that we should be.  It is far, far better to be a fallen hero such as Gideon than to be a prevailing villain such as Nehor.

Daniel 3

(March 14, 2015)
                How could I focus on anything else in this scripture than to be drawn to the powerful words of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego that the Lord could save them, but if not they would continue to worship the Lord.  I fear that too often my worship (or my obedience) is conditional.  If things are going well in my life, I find it easier to be obedient or kind or give service.  When my life is difficult, I will rationalize that I am too tired to serve, or while I was angry it was because of this circumstance or another in my life.

                What I am, in essence, saying is that the Lord can save me from my pain, but if not my service towards Him won’t be quite as strong as it would otherwise have been.  If I emulate Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego (and, of course, I should) then my answer would be that yes I am tired and yes the Lord can remove this tiredness from me…but if not, I will still be there early in the morning to set up chairs for Stake Conference.