Friday, November 20, 2015

Doctrine and Covenants 88

(November 14, 2015)
                It is funny how the mind works sometimes.  This Section is probably one of the most doctrinally rich pieces of scripture that exist in the world.  There is so much contained in it that it would take years studying this one Section to tease it all out.  And yet, as I read through this Section, my mind caught on what could at best be considered a triviality.

                In the same verse, we read that Michael will bring an end to time, and then Satan will be bound but loosed again after 1,000 years.  As I read this, I couldn’t figure out how we would know 1,000 years had passed (or how 1,000 years could pass at all) if Michael had brought an end to time.

                This isn’t something that worries me, mind you – if you have read very many of these musings on the scriptures you have likely read some of my thoughts on time and what that might mean in the eternities.  But the direct contrast between the two was striking and I don’t know exactly what conclusion to draw from it – though it is admittedly fun to think about.

Helaman 12

(November 14, 2015)
                I have, reluctantly, seen some of the things that Mormon condemns in this chapter in my own life.  I have seen, when things were easy, that my attention to the Lord and willingness to give my heart and will over to Him diminished.  On the other hand, I have seen (particularly recently) when He is all that I have to hold on to that I have been greatly increased in my ability to consecrate my life to Him.  In this way, adversity is a huge blessing.

                The struggle, of course, is that the Lord doesn’t want us to live in eternal adversity of the sort we experience in mortality.  He wants us to inherit all He has inherited from His Father.  But we need to not just turn to the Lord when things are bad enough that we have no choice, but to stay focused on the Lord when things are good enough that our mortal minds desire to tell us we have no need for Him.  If we can reach that point – the point where both adversity and prosperity turn us towards the Lord – we will have taken significant steps towards reaching our eternal destiny.

Helaman 10-11

(November 13, 2015)

                My attention in these two chapters was drawn to the way that Nephi exercised his authority that had been given to him from God.  God told him that whatsoever he said would be done.  Yet despite this power and authority, it can be argued that Nephi never used it.  Instead, Nephi pled with the Lord in prayer for those things that he felt to be right, and reasoned with the Lord (particularly in ending the famine).  But even though he had been given this great power, he was extraordinarily circumspect in how he used it.  There is guidance there for each of us in our stewardships as well.

Doctrine and Covenants 87

(November 12, 2015)
                There has always been an interesting contrast between the prophesies that are isolated from the events that represent their culmination and those that are not.  For example, the prophesies of the Book of Mormon are more explicit regarding the life of Christ than are the prophesies of the Old Testament.  I think there are likely very good reasons for that – most notably the fact that awareness of the future events can create change of those future events (whether from mortal or diabolical sources).

                That being said, there is much in this Section that is accurate and beyond Joseph Smith’s understanding even in light of the geopolitical realities of the days in which he lived.  Yes, there was some indication (including problems in South Carolina), but there is still quite a bit that this Section gets right beyond what Joseph could have known or guessed.

Helaman 9

(November 12, 2015)
                On the one hand, we are repeatedly told that we should not seek for signs.   On the other hand, we have examples from the scriptures of those who did seek for signs (a certain damp fleece comes to mind, or the response of the five in this chapter).  So what makes what they are doing acceptable and what other sign-seekers do worthy of condemnation.

                First, I choose the word acceptable deliberately.  I am struck by the thought of a paraphrase of Christ’s words to Thomas – more blessed are those who do not seek after signs.  But by the same token, I have been overwhelmingly blessed by seeing signs and miracles in my life, and they have been such an assistance to me (particularly in this difficult time).

                The difference between those which are acceptable and those which are worthy of condemnation is the desire to know and do the will of the Lord.  These five clearly were willing to follow the truth – they just needed to know that Nephi was teaching that truth.  Others saw the same miracle and were not convinced, but these five not only were convinced but subsequently became converted.  That, I believe, is the difference.

Doctrine and Covenants 85-86

(November 11, 2015)

                It is enlightening to read about the wheat and tares in my current situation.  There are many who would look at me, and where I am in my life, and determine that I am one of the tares.  I have never felt more grateful for the patience of the Lord in holding off on the reaping to allow me to develop into the wheat I want to be than I was today as I read this Section.

Helaman 8

(November 11, 2015)
                Nephi speaks of what the people know and cannot deny without lying.  This struck me because of my own brush with doubt and a troubling diminishment of testimony.  At my darkest point, I didn’t know whether God existed or whether there was anything other than the materialistic world in which we lived.  I was blessed to escape that awful state of mind (and I assure you it is awful, though that is not what makes it untrue), but I can still remember being in that state.

                In such a position, I don’t think that it would have been a situation where I couldn’t not deny without lying (though I am glad I never reached that point).  But Nephi is speaking to a particular audience here (those who occupied the social leadership roles of what is apparently a quasi-theocratic society).  There may be individuals who don’t know and can deny without lying, but I don’t think that those who occupied the positions of those Nephi was speaking to could deny without lying.

                Again, I don’t know that this matters in any meaningful way, but it shows the importance of recognizing time, place, and audience when reading the scriptures.