Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Acts 16-17

(June 30, 2015)
                I had a couple of brief thoughts as I read through these chapters.  The first was on the change in perspective and narration in these chapters (it went back and forth between first- and third-person).  This, of course, isn’t a huge deal – it may be perfectly accurate in how it is presented (with the narrator stepping in to describe his participation from time to time) or it may be a mistake somewhere.  Neither option bothers me.  The value in this, though, is in contradicting the anti-Mormon argument that the similar change in perspective which occurs once in Helaman’s letter to Moroni ‘disproves’ the Book of Mormon.  Whether it is correct, in that it was edited and redacted by Mormon (which, I think, is the most likely scenario) or some different explanation, the takeaway is that things like this happen even in scripture.

                The second thought was on those who generated chaos.  Rather than respond to the truths presented (which, I believe, they knew they couldn’t) they instead resorted to a different tactic.  They generated chaos and confusion and disorder, and then they blamed that chaos and confusion and disorder on the Disciples.

                I see this on a macro- and micro-level.  On a macro-level, our current political process is being destroyed by this satanic behavior.  Crises are generated by the very people demanding their preferred political remedy for the crises.  Chaos and confusion are everywhere, and by design.

                On a micro-level, there are those who demand certain responses or else they will take destructive actions (or take the destructive action and demand responses or they will continue those actions).  In both of these cases, what we see is an abrogation of agency, and a willing engagement in any sort of behavior to acquire the control they desire.

                Of course, this behavior is incompatible with the life of a disciple of Christ (and to the extent we engage in any such behavior, we must repent).  But even more than that, we must learn how best to respond to such behavior.  And in this respect, I really don’t know the right answer.  Turning the other cheek and giving in seems to embolden and encourage such behavior.  But we are not to resist evil, either.  I wish I knew, because I am facing just such a bullying set of behaviors right now and I struggle to know the right thing to do.  I muddle through as best as I can, but it would be easier if I had more clarity.

Moroni 8

(June 30, 2015)
                The doctrine of salvation for children under the age of eight leads to some interesting understandings.  First, the reality is that for a long time (and still today in some parts of the world) a majority of children died before the age of eight.  That would seem to indicate that salvation is more common than first thought.  I am not sure how that works out, but I trust that it does and am grateful for it.

                The second thought is just how perfect the Lord’s justice and mercy are.  The Lord is not going to condemn us for things that happen completely outside of our control any more than He would condemn children for what is happening outside of their control.  I am currently in a very difficult and painful position, and yet I can trust that the Lord will make things right and not condemn me for things I cannot change but rather will judge me for the things which I am doing and the ways I do act.  This is a tender mercy from Him.

Moroni 7

(June 29, 2015)
                Meekness, Mormon makes clear here, is inseparable with faith.  This, of course, makes perfect sense.  We as human beings want power, control, status, and all of the trappings that goes with that.  Meekness is wholly inconsistent with the natural man – not only is it difficult, it serves no purpose.

                But, when our faith is real and vibrant, meekness becomes the obvious choice.  We have no need of ourselves to fight our battles because (1) the Lord is more than capable of fighting His own battles; and (2) we recognize that very often those we fight aren’t even our enemies in the first place.

                Meekness is hard – it is very difficult to back down in the face of opposition or persecution (especially when that opposition or persecution is unfair).  It is so tempting to take the battle to those who hurt us, or to “defend” ourselves.  We can rationalize our behavior by insisting that we are only protection ourselves from being the victims (as if the Anti-Nephi-Lehis weren’t victims when they were slaughtered), and justify our response.  But when we do that, we are relying on the arm of flesh and demonstrating a lack of faith.

                I am not saying it is easy, by any means.  I struggle with it on an ongoing basis.  But it is the right way to live our lives and the way that Christ lived His life.  He could, with a word, have destroyed His enemies at any point.  Instead, He was meek in the face of their persecution.  That is the example for each of us to follow.

Acts 15

(June 28, 2015)
                We see in this chapter one of the first demonstrations of the power of councils in the early Church.  We have record of how those councils went – much the same as we have record of how they go in our day.  In both times, everyone is free to speak their minds.  Truth and opinion is not withheld, but all come ready to listen to the voice of the Lord.

                After each have had their say, the debate until revelation is received by the Priesthood leader.  Then all who participate in the council are asked if they can support the leader.  Unanimity is reached – not just of verdict but also of opinion.  Onenees is pursued.

                This council process is something that seems difficult and costly in time and emotional resources, but at the same time it seems so very worthwhile.  I have seen councils done according to a model different from this one, and I have seen the negative consequences that can flow from these deviations.  As I go forward in my life, I see this skill (working in council) being an important one for me to develop – both with the Lord, with my children, and with a future eternal companion.

Ether 15; Moroni 1-6

(June 28, 2015)
                I cannot help but wonder what ever became of Coriantumr.  Not physically, of course – we know that he joined with the Mulekites and spent his last days with them – but rather spiritually.  With everything that he had witnessed, and everything which he experienced, was he finally ready (in that last window of time the Lord gave him) to repent and turn to the Lord?

                It really ought to be an easy question to answer, but I have my doubts whether he actually repented.  I look back at his actions – how many times the clear truth of the prophecies were before him (and he even seemingly acknowledged their validity), and yet he refused to repent.  After the prophecies came true, was he at that point ready to repent?  Or would he allow his heart to become bitter and be even more sealed off against God?

                Earlier in my life, I felt like so many questions were just a matter of faith – if I truly believed, then of course I would take the right course of action.  My mistakes were deficiencies of faith in my mind, rather than deficiencies of character.  But reality has disabused me of that belief – I have seen in both my own life and the lives of others that just because we believe the truth (even when we know the truth), does not mean we live it.

                Turning our lives and our wills over to God is ultimately a choice.  It is a choice that stands independent of the level of our faith in many ways.  Or, instead, it stands as prior to our faith – we choose to believe, just as we choose to act.  The fact that Coriantumr saw his whole society destroyed as a result of prophecies from Ether does not necessarily mean he repented – after all, he didn’t repent when he was seeing it in the process of happening.

Acts 13-14

(June 27, 2015)
                We see a major difference here between the way the Greeks treated Paul and the way the Jews treated Christ.  In Christ, the Jews came face-to-face with their God.  He performed countless miracles in their view.  And, ultimately, they condemned Him as a mere man and sentenced Him to death.

                In contrast, Paul was nothing more than a man.  He performed (in our record) a single miracle in the view of the Greeks.  And the Greeks were prepared to worship him as a god, and it took their greatest efforts to prevent them from doing so.

                It drives home the truth of the idea that if the miracles which were performed by Jesus had been done to any other people, they would not have crucified Him.  But what does that mean for us, who are His chosen people today?  Are we still similarly blind, such that we have been so blessed by miracles and the gifts of the Spirit that we could become blind to the Lord working among us?

Ether 14

(Jun 27, 2015)
                Sometimes it is hard to look at the world around us and see how the Lord will ultimately win.  We know that He will, of course (in fact He already has), but it can still be significantly difficult to see how it is to be done.  We are severely outnumbered, and the enemy is willing to do things that we are not willing to do to ensure victory.

                Sometimes I think to myself that nothing short of direct intervention from the Lord can save us, but then I wonder whether that is truly how things are going to be accomplished.  Not that I doubt that He could, just that I wonder if He will.  I think at times that the Lord’s Plan is for us as His disciples to carry out His will and bring about His purposes on the Earth (to the greatest extent that we can).

                Seeing the darkness enveloping the world, I can only see one way that is accomplished – and it is hinted at in this chapter (although it did not ultimately lead to the salvation of the Jaredites).  Evil cannot coordinate the way that it should, although good rarely coordinates as it should.  Evil is, ultimately, self-interested and as it acquires power its unity disintegrates.  Good struggles to acquire unity, but when it does that unity is both powerful and lasting.

                That unity is the hope for the disciples of Christ (and why, I think, He spoke of it so urgently and so often).