Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Doctrine and Covenants 40

(October 6, 2015)
                Ok, so I have to admit to a little doctrinal conceit that I have carried around with me.  I have often thought to myself that, if ever we lived in a Celestial fashion for any given time, that the Lord would end our lives at a point where we were worthy for Exaltation rather than allowing us to live longer and screw up our opportunity to return to live with Him.  After all, said I, if we were worthy at one point it would be loving to take our lives at that point rather than allowing us to continue to live only to have us make a huge mistake that puts our salvation in jeopardy.

                You might be thinking that you have never heard anything supporting this position from the scriptures – and you would be right.  Sometimes we just get ideas in our heads that say a great deal about us and about the way we think the world ought to work, but much less about the way that it actually does work.  This was one of the times when I allow that to happen to me.

                In reality, we have the example of James Covel to directly contradict my belief.  James Covel lived in such a way that he was right before God.  Presumably, had he died the day he was baptized, he would have been on track for Exaltation (though, of course, how could we know for certain).  Instead, however, he continued on in life and reached the point where fear of the world and his cares caused him to leave the faith and (again presumably, though we cannot say for certain) lose his Exaltation.

                It is important to remember this because it is important to remember that we are likewise holding on tightly to the Iron Rod because to lose grip on it threatens our Eternal destiny.  We cannot idly let go and still hope for things to ‘work out’ based upon where we were in the past.

Alma 27-29

(October 6, 2015)
                Once again, the Ammonites are a great example to each of us.  They did not fear death, which can only happen as a result of two key points – they had a firm testimony and they were living their lives in accordance with God’s will.  This provides the power to overcome not only the fear of death, but really empowers us to overcome all fear.

                After all, if we truly understand that God has prepared a perfect Plan, and this Plan is perfectly designed to bring about our happiness, and if we are doing what we can (however limited that may be) to do what the Lord wants from us, then what is there to fear?  Job loss?  The Lord will take care of it, and it is part of His Plan.  Death?  The Lord will take care if, and it is part of Him Plan.  Illness?  Children straying?  Whatever the concern may be, if we have faith and if we do our part (whatever it is that the Lord may ask of us), there will be no need for us to ever fear.

Doctrine and Covenants 39

(October 5, 2015)
                Certainly we are not always the source of our own suffering.  After all, Christ was acquainted with all types of suffering, and He lived a perfect life.  But I am convinced that many times our suffering in mortality is designed by a loving Father to bring us to the point where we are finally ready and willing to confront our weaknesses and apply the Atonement in our lives.

                This is shown in this Section.  The Lord tells James Covel that he as seen great sorrow, and the reason for that sorrow is that he rejected the Lord many times because of pride and the cares of the world.  So, to, with us I believe.  We have each likely seen great sorrow – not all the sorrow we have experienced, of course, but a substantial portion – because we rejected the Lord because of those things we placed as more important than Him.

                Honestly, this is great news.  Because to the extent that we repent, we will find these self-generated burdens and sorrows relieved.  Of course, if my experience is any guide the moment you choose to repent you will also find the suffering to open our eyes to our weaknesses magnified to the Nth degree, but that suffering is a blessing as well.

Alma 25-26

(October 5, 2015)

                It dawned on me, while reading these chapters, how the Law of Moses is a symbol of the Church.  As with the Law of Moses, we understand that salvation does not come by the Church.  As with the Law of Moses, we understand that the Church can serve to strengthen our faith in Christ.  As with the Law of Moses, we are not permitted to disregard the Church even though the Church ultimately is a means to an end rather than an end of itself.

Doctrine and Covenants 38

(October 4, 2015)
                We are part of a culture that, for whatever reason, values weakness.  We value victimhood, and the struggles that we have faced and the difficulties and heartaches of our past have become almost a currency for us to operate with.  Forgotten in all of this, of course, is that facing difficulty is not something to be cheered – overcoming difficulty, however, is.

                I love the language of the Lord here – “be ye strong from henceforth.”  It doesn’t matter what we have faced to this point in our lives, or how we might have failed, or how others may have abused positions of trust or power to inflict admittedly painful wounds.  None of this matters because, on balance, the infinite Atonement stands more powerful than all of that combined.  No, we are not given license to dwell in our past error or past difficulty.  Instead the Lord invites us to be strong from henceforth.

Alma 24

(October 4, 2015)
                I loved beyond measure the king’s speech to his people.  At the time this speech was given, the people (and the king) faced death.  Almost certainly (assuming a Mesoamerican tradition) the king was looking at not only being killed but being tortured to death is exceptionally grisly ways.  I have faced difficult times in my life, but I don’t think any of them are nearly as dire as those the Ammonites faced at this moment.

                So what does the king do?  He gives a speech, and the entire first half of it is focused on gratitude.  He expresses his gratitude for the deliverance they have been given spiritually even as they face destruction temporally.  What a wonderful example to each of us, as we face our own challenges, to remain focused on gratitude rather than mired in concerns.

                The other thought I had was on the prayers of the Ammonites as they were being cut down.  Surely, as people willing to die rather than defend themselves or risk taking the lives of others, they were righteous.  The scriptures all but say they received Exaltation, so the Lord must have heard their prayers.  And yet, they were cut down all the same.  What lesson is there for us in this?  Just because we are worthy, and just because we are seeking a worthy goal (and something greatly important to us), does not mean that our prayers will necessarily be answered…at least, not in mortality.

Doctrine and Covenants 35-37

(October 3, 2015)
                The closing of Section 37 is fascinating.  Here we have the commandment of Jesus Christ to His people, and yet despite who He is and what He knows, He continues to respect their agency.  “[L]et every man choose for himself until I come.”

                There is profound guidance in this to us who are in any position of stewardship – whether Bishop or Stake President or Elder’s Quorum President or father.  We may think we know exactly what needs to be done, and we might be right.  We may think we know exactly what mistakes those under our stewardship are making, and we may be right.  We may think we know the tragic consequences if our counsel isn’t followed, and we may be right.  But none of these justify our overstepping of our stewardship and failing to respect another’s agency.

                If Jesus Christ can give a commandment to His people and close with a reminder that their agency permits disobedience (unwise though that is), then I had better do likewise in any situation where I am acting in His place.