Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Doctrine and Covenants 28-29

(September 30, 2015)
                There are those who have wondered why God, if He loves us all, would allow some to receive the misery of damnation.  I think the answer is contained quite clearly in this reading.  There are those, who because of their choices and experiences, arrive at a point where they love darkness more than light.  Once we reach that point – once we love darkness more than light – then receiving the Salvation offered through the Atonement of Christ would be an agony for us.

                The challenge for us in mortality is to begin the process of sanctification.  We are to come to an understanding of our fallen natures and the areas of our lives where we also love darkness more than light.  And we must decide for ourselves if we choose to remain in that darkness, or whether we will allow the Lord to change our very natures into something that desires the light.  He is willing to do that if we are willing to allow it.

Alma 20

(September 30, 2015)
                A truth that I learned a long time ago is fairly elegantly demonstrated in this chapter.  When Ammon is determining what to do, the Lord tells him that he is to go to rescue his brothers rather than going to the land of Nephi because, “for behold, the king will seek [his] life.”

                A reasonable review of this statement of the Lord would lead you to believe that He is giving Ammon a ‘what’ and a ‘why.’  The ‘what’ is to not go to the Land of Nephi, and the ‘why’ is that the king will seek his life.  But, in retrospect, that isn’t what the Lord is doing here.

                Everything the Lord says is true, but He is not giving Ammon a why for the commandment.  He is telling Ammon what to do, but any conclusions as to the why for the commandment are being inferred by Ammon.

                I have seen this over and over, both in the scriptures and in my personal interactions with the Lord.  The Lord almost never gives us an explanation as to why we need to do what we need to do.  In fact, he very rarely gives us much information at all.  He tells us what to do, and by doing what He tells us to do we learn the rest along the way.

                I cannot, of course, project my experiences out to everyone else in the world.  But I can say that what happened to Ammon in this chapter is consistent with my experiences with the Lord.  I am very careful to listen to what the Lord tells me to do, but I don’t presume to know why He is telling me to do it.

Doctrine and Covenants 27

(September 29, 2015)
                Prior to the Lord revealing that what we use for bread and wine in the Sacrament is not important, I would certainly have thought it would be of extreme importance.  It makes sense, of course, that revelations was required to change this practice because I cannot see making this change without revelation.

                But the larger point is that there is, in my mind, no way to logically determine what is and what is not essential in our relation to Deity and what is optional.  There is no amount of reasoning that can lead us to the conclusion that the words of the Sacramental prayer brook not changes but the actual emblems can be anything (and, in fact, recently the former has even seen some relaxing).

                Reason cannot ever supplant revelation no matter how much some may want it to because we are aspiring to learn what God knows and we cannot reach that on our own.  Even the smallest errors of thinking risk extraordinary deviations when projected out through eternity. We need the Lord to teach us so as to ensure that the minute corrections necessary are constantly being put into place regardless of what our logic or reason along the way may have to say on the matter.

Alma 19

(September 29, 2015)
                What isn’t said in the scriptures is often, to me, almost as fascinating as what is said.  For example, what was Ammon doing during the two days between when King Lamoni fainted and when the queen summoned him?  Was he just doing his daily chores?  Did he take the flock to be watered again? How would the other servants have dealt with him?

                I is fascinating to remember that these people in the scriptures were normal people with normal lives (albeit with a few extraordinary experiences thrown into the mix).  From the scriptures, we read about Ammon’s life containing perhaps a few miracles – the angel’s appearance, the fainting, the Waters of Sebus are three that come to mind.  Am I missing any?  Not much, I would imagine.

                So here we have the record in the scriptures of the life of one of the greatest missionaries ever, and we see basically three miracles written about them (only one of which fully defies a naturalistic explanation).  This, in my review of the scriptures, is pretty consistent with the bulk of those who are not called to initiate a Dispensation – a few (perhaps one) miracles defying any naturalistic explanation and a few more miracles that could perhaps be explained away by the determined.

                What’s interesting about that is that this is consistent with my experiences in life – and in the lives of many others.  I was talking with an atheist recently would shared his experiences with me, and they were much the same as those we hear from Ammon – one miraculous, unexplainable  experience and a few miraculous, explainable experiences. 

                While the lives of prophets are, in some ways, exceptions to the rule the prophets with frequent miraculous experiences are almost exceptions to the exceptions.  When we lose track of this truth, I think we lose sight of some other important truths as well.  Most importantly, we lose perspective and think either that we are not as blessed with miracles in our lives as the prophets are and our pride allows us to deceive ourselves into believing that if only we had those experiences we would be more righteous than we are.

                This, frankly, is a bit frustrating to write though because I don’t know that I am being clear at all with what I am trying to convey.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Doctrine and Covenants 25-26

(September 28, 2015)
                What is it about music that has such power?  There are certain things that convince me that our understanding of the universe, Divinity, and so forth is really in its infancy.  The power of music is one of those things.  After all, there is no meaningful reason why music should contain the power that it has, but it is undoubtedly true that it has this power.

                I could speculate on the source of this power, but both naturalistic and spiritual speculation do not make logical sense.  The only answer that I can really give is the recognition that music does not work the way that we think it does and the universe does not work the way that we think it does.  It may seem like too much of a conclusion to draw from a simple topic, but when something true clearly doesn’t fit your theory then your theory must inevitably bend.

Alma 18

(September 28, 2015)
                So much of what many view as religion today is a mirror of what the Lamanites believed in this chapter.  They think there is a God (after all, they would otherwise fear the “terrible questions” of Nibley), but “notwithstanding they believed in [God], they supposed that whatsoever they did was right.”

                This is the model of “spiritual but not religious.  This is the cheap grace spoken of by Bonhoeffer.  This is the religion of Nehor.  If Satan cannot convince us to turn from God, he will instead convince us that God loves us so much that need not repent (fooling us into rejecting the Atonement – of which repentance is an integral part).

Doctrine and Covenants 24

(September 27, 2015)

                Once again, I am drawn to the old saw where we sometimes believe that temporary success predicts or indicates spiritual capacity or success.  Not only do we not have direct evidence of that from the scriptures, we have Sections such as this where the exact opposite is clearly laid out.  We certainly cannot claim that Joseph Smith didn’t have spiritual strength, but the Lord directly said that he would not have strength in his temporal labors.  If we judged Joseph based upon the prosperity Gospel, we would misjudge him terribly.

Alma 17

(September 27, 2015)
                I had a couple of thoughts as I read through this chapter.  The first was on the obligation that the sons of Mosiah be patient in their afflictions that they may show forth good examples.  First, that clearly indicates that they would suffer afflictions that were not for their benefit, but rather for the benefit of those who happen to be around them.  Having experienced this in my life from time to time, it is particularly difficult when the one for whom you are suffering do not recognize the efforts that you are making or even rejoice in your pain.

                But that is the case here.  The Lamanites who bound Aaron, for example, likely rejoiced in his suffering.  And yet Aaron’s suffering (and his patience in that suffering) was for their benefit.

                It is funny how a particular scripture can be so roundly misinterpreted.  We hear all the time that we are not our brother’s keeper, but the reality is that was the position taken by Cain, and there is no indication that the Lord espoused such a position.  In contrast, there is every evidence that we are supposed to be our brother’s keeper, and if this means suffering for our brothers and sisters (even if they rejoice in our suffering or hate us for it) is just a small part of that obligation.

                The other thought I had was on the earlier servants slain by the king before Ammon came along.  In the grand scheme of things, what did their lives amount to?  Unquestionably they were people with hopes and dreams and fears and loves.  And yet, in the final analysis it seems as if they were killed to set a backdrop for the later heroism of Ammon.

                This works for literature, but the Lord does not work through literature.  These servants who were slain (offstage, and with no fanfare) were just as important to the Lord as Ammon.  But, no matter how important we may be, we each have our roles to play.  And we are given no illusions of this mortal life being fair or just – only that, in the great and Final Judgment things will be fair.

Doctrine and Covenants 21-23

(September 26, 2015)
                The Lord’s commandments here are interesting.  He counsels patience in following Joseph Smith.  The reason this is enlightening is the fallibility in Joseph that this demonstrates.  After all, were Joseph perfect patience would not be the characteristic most important in following him.  We can look to Christ as the example – following Christ required courage, and faith, and a testimony born of revelation. But patience would not be the top of the list (it, of course, being different in some respects for us now).

                The Lord, in showing the importance of patience in following mortal leaders, is teaching us that despite their weaknesses we are to honor our leaders even when they make mistakes (and even when those mistakes hurt us).  A high and difficult challenge indeed, but unquestionably what we must do.

Alma 16

(September 26, 2015)
                There is an important lesson to be learned in this chapter.  Zoram had a goal, and it was a righteous one.  He wanted to rescue people who had been taken captive by the Lamanites.  But rather than pursuing the goal according to his own desires (or even according to his own judgment), he went through the Lord’s hierarchy and to the Lord for information on how to seek out accomplishing this goal.

                This can be applied to our lives in many ways.  For example, many of our brothers and sisters have been spiritually captured, and are right now being led captive out of the Church.  We may desire greatly the capacity to rescue them, to bring them back to activity, and to free them from the suffering and bondage they are currently facing.

                This, of course, is one of the reasons why I post these thoughts on scripture reading online and one of the reasons I try to stay active in online apologetics.  But it is desperately important that we follow the two lessons we learn in this chapter.

                First, we don’t get ahead of the formal Church in what we are writing.  For example, some with good intentions have demanded that what they write stay up even when Church leaders have asked (for reasons I do not know, and therefore cannot judge to be good or bad) that they be taken down.  This is inappropriate save direct revelation from the Lord to the contrary.  I cannot imagine the Church having any issue with what I post here, but if I got word from my Bishop or Stake President or anyone up the line they wanted my blog taken down (or any piece thereof), then that would be what I would need to do.  I cannot help rescue my brothers and sisters from the “Lamanites” if I am unwilling to follow my Alma.

                Second, we must listen to the Lord and go where He directs us to go.  We may want to post about a certain topic or a certain thought, but whenever we feel prompted by the Lord we need to listen to that (rather than our own personal judgment).  We cannot know or understand the reception our words will get from any individual (no matter how well we might know them), so anticipating the response of a mass of people to an online posting is an absurd piece of conceit.  Yes, we should use our best judgment but Divine direction is mandatory.

                The good news, of course, is that this chapter demonstrates that if our desires are good and if we follow the Church and the Lord, we can receive those desires and perhaps help some few (or, God-willing, many) of our brothers and sisters to escape their captivity and return to us.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Doctrine and Covenants 20

(September 25, 2015)
                Just when I think I have something figured out (the relationship between the Father and Son, and our duties to both), something comes along and demonstrates that I still don’t understand.  I thought after reading Christ in Revelations about the importance of John not worshipping Him that I understood things better.  But in this Section, I see the matter is a little more complex.

                Christ (who, from the Section heading, revealed this Section) reaffirmed that God the Father is the only being that we should worship.  But He added language that all Glory be to the Son, both now and forever.  How do those two different principles interact (all Glory to the Son, but worship only the Father)? With the confusion and ambiguities concerning words, how do we determine to know what is and is not appropriate in our relationship to the Godhead?

                I don’t think that this is an issue that will lead to our destruction if we misunderstand it – I can’t imagine either the Father or the Son being angry if we mistakenly apply ourselves to one or the other (after all, any Glory to the Son is given to the Father by Him).  But understanding this, I feel, will lead to a better understanding of Them and that can do nothing but bless my life if I can come to that understanding.

Alma 15

(September 25, 2015)
                It is striking to me that, when the prison walls fell and the chief justice was slain (along with many of the leaders of unrighteousness), that Alma and Amulek didn’t stay.  You would think they would never have a better audience – especially in light of the miracles the people had just seen.  But instead they were commanded to go elsewhere.

                Of course, shortly thereafter, we realize that it was a good thing that they were commanded to leave.  For the miracles didn’t convert (they never do).  Sometimes we may see things that make perfect sense to us (‘teach the people who have just received a miraculous demonstration of the Lord’s power’) only to find that the Lord has other ideas.  We can never have adequate information to make informed decisions, so our only course of safety is to follow the Lord.

                The other thought was in the description of the Nehorites – that they “did not believe in the repentance of their sins.”  I have long believed that the religion of Nehor exists today in its closest form in the ‘spiritual but not religious’ adherents.  These are people who do not believe in the repentance of sins.  Notice what it does not say – it does not say they do not believe in the forgiveness of sins.  They instead believe in what Bonhoeffer calls cheap grace – forgiveness without repentance.  It is in this way that they do not believe in the repentance of their sins – not that they cannot be forgiven but there really is no need for repentance (and, often, there really is no sin).

Doctrine and Covenants 19

(September 24, 2015)
                I struggle to know how to deal with this Section.  On the one hand, the language of this Section seems pretty clear – what we consider eternal or endless punishment is not what we expect.  On the other hand, this threatens us to come to some improper conclusions and perhaps to encourage or enable sin.

                As best as I understand it, though, this is the Lord speaking out against the conception of Hell that existed at the time this revelation was given.  I don’t think that He was teaching us that we could progress from the Telestial Kingdom to the Celestial Kingdom, but rather than the Telestial Kingdom would not be fire and brimstone and pitchforks.

                Is such progression between kingdoms possible?  I honestly don’t know.  I can see language to support both possibilities in the scriptures and if there is a conclusive statement from the Church I am unaware of it.  But if we aspire to any kingdom but the Celestial Kingdom in hopes of future progression, we take and awfully large risk.  The only course that offers safety is a Celestial one.

Alma 14

(September 24, 2015)
                Time and again, I find myself viewing the scriptures through the prism of my experiences.  Today I was struck by the way that the people were treated.  Alma and Amulek, prophets of God, held the power to reach out their hands and save these people from the destruction that was being brought upon them by the deceit of others. Yet despite the fact that the could be saved (and, arguably by worldly standards of justice, should be saved) the Lord did not instruct Alma and Amulek to save them.

                In the eternal scheme of things, the people who died would be blessed.  In the temporal scheme of things, the people who died suffered intense agony from enemies not only of them but of God.

                I face, in my own small way, a similar situation.  Having been condemned by dishonest attacks from those who seek my destruction, I can be saved by a prophet reaching out his hand.  He clearly can do it, and arguably (by worldly standards of justice) should do it, yet it is still entirely possible that he may not do it, and it may be that he does not do it because the Lord will instruct him not to.

                Left in that situation, I will need to pass through my own fire, deal with my own suffering, but I can likewise hope that I will receive a similar reward to those who died in the fire in this chapter.  I still have hope that this may be avoided, but regardless of whether it is or is not, my obligation is to follow the Lord and trust in His perfect Plan.

                The other thought that I had was on the actions of wicked lawyers and judges.  Having condemned the innocents to death, and having made Alma and Amulek watch, you would think that would be enough for them.  But no, they next needed to smite them on the cheek after the people were burned.

                Once again, it is easy enough to compare this to my situation but instead the harder (and more productive) road is to recognize the ways I am doing this in my life.  Do I, out of a misguided feeling of justice or vengeance, find joy in the suffering of others (or, worse, add to that suffering)?  Regardless of my circumstances, or how I arrived at them, this is something that I must not and cannot do.

Doctrine and Covenants 16-18

(September 23, 2015)
                Do we fully understand the worth of souls?  I know, in the depths of my heart, that I struggle with this.  I struggle to understand the worth of my own soul, when doubts and weakness threatens to capsize me.  I struggle to understand the worth of the souls of those around me, as I fail to truly love and care for them as the Savior would.  And I especially struggle to understand the worth of the souls of those who are my enemies, who seek my destruction, and those who hurt me.

                Charity must be a gift from God, because it can be acquired in no other way.  I cannot reason my way to feeling the love for those who hurt me that I should.  Yes, I can intellectually accept an understanding of their worth but following in the footsteps of Christ demands more.  It demands that we love those who try to (and succeed at) hurting us as we love ourselves.

Alma 13

(September 23, 2015)
                We face a world that has become very wicked – while the trappings of the “good life” surround us (easy, convenience, entertainment, and so forth), the world is steadily slouching away from righteousness.  In this condition, at times it can feel pretty helpless.  After all, what can one man do to change the course of a society?

                Perhaps the answer is nothing in my particular case.  But perhaps not.  After all, Christ was one man (albeit a unique one) that changed the world.  But what about Melchizedek?  He was a man who faced a people that had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination.  His people had all gone astray.  Yet despite this, he was able to help bring about peace and righteousness in his people because of his strength in the Lord.

                I don’t expect that I am in some way going to bring about peace in our age of iniquity.  Perhaps that is a lack of faith on my part, but I think it more that I have an understanding of what the Lord has sent me here to Earth to do.  But one man, performing what the Lord wants of him, can make a profound difference.  The ‘inevitable’ downward slide of society can be stopped by a single person (or group of people).  This is a source of hope, even if I am not the person that will be charged with accomplishing that work.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Doctrine and Covenants 14-15

(September 22, 2015)
                We sometimes want personal messages from the Lord, but then we shirk when those personal messages are not unique.  We want to know what the Lord would have us do, but then we become frustrated when what He asks of us is the same thing He asks of our neighbors.

                But the truth is there is a difference between personal and unique.  Most of us will have personal missions to accomplish for the Lord throughout our lives.  Rarely will we have unique missions to accomplish.  Though Sections 15 and 16 were nearly identical, it does not change the fact that they were personal and important to their recipients.  Likewise we need to be careful that we don’t overlook the personal messages the Lord has for us as we look beyond the mark searching for unique messages for us.

Alma 12

(September 22, 2015)
                We like to deceive ourselves that what truly matters is how serious a sin is (and not whether we are sinning at all).  We think that we may be falling short of the standards we know to be true, and we may be holding back a portion of our will from the Lord, but so-and-so over there is doing something far worse than we are and so we are (relatively) righteous.

                But this is a conceit that is not supported by scripture.  In this chapter, the language couldn’t be more clear.  Whosoever will harden their heart and do iniquity will not enter in to the rest of the Lord.  There is not discussion of the relative severity of that iniquity, but rather just the question of its existence.  Have we been made completely clean through the Atonement of Christ?  Then we may enter His rest.  Do we hold back one sin (however small) and refuse to put it upon the altar?  Then we have damned ourselves.

                Giving our wills over completely to the Lord is a difficult process, but it is the only way to return to live with God.  Half measures will not and can not work.

Doctrine and Covenants 12-13

(September 21, 2015)

                I have been dancing around this issue recently (in multiple scriptures) and I guess these Sections really drove home the point to me.  We are told that if we ask we shall receive, but we are not (to my knowledge) told that we will receive what we asked for.  Instead, like Nephi asking to burst his bands, we tend to be given what we need (and just what we need) from the Lord along with the help and inspiration that we need to grow and develop into what the Lord would have us to be.

Alma 11

(September 21, 2015)
                For a long time, I held to the illusion that because people were rational they would obey all the commandments if only their faith and testimony were strong enough.  But, as I have been taught by (sometimes painful) experience through the years, I have come to understand that my belief in this idea was na├»ve.

                I believe, still, that people tend to act in their rational interest.  I no longer believe, though, that all people’s interest is in following the Gospel.  There are those who, even if they fully understood the truth, would choose to follow another path (we read about them in this chapter, as they are described as those who believe that there is a God but love lucre more).

                In that sense, though, the perfect plan of our Father is even more perfect.  He stands ready to teach us that the greatest joy that we can have is by following Him.  He stands ready to help us to change our desires until they are in harmony with what our desires would need to be in order to live a Celestial life.  But if, in the end, we choose something other than a Celestial life He will not force that life upon us.  Our lives are a test, but this test tends to reveal our desires rather than as a pass/fail test.  By the end of this life we likely know what we want, and if we have become people who want a Celestial existence (a true Celestial existence, with the duties and difficulties that would entail) then we will likely receive it.  But, of course, if we truly want that one would assume that we would live in that way here in mortality as well – so our mortal behavior is probably a pretty good indicator of our Heavenly desire and destiny.

Doctrine and Covenants 11

(September 20, 2015)
                Why is patience so often required, even when we are desiring a good thing (such as sharing the Gospel)?  It would seem that, when we want something good and selfless, that getting it quickly would be uniformly good – but that has more to do with our own limited understanding than it does with the Gospel.

                God has a perfect plan for us, and in includes not only things happening in His way but in His time as well.  We may think that we are desiring a good thing when we desire to share the Gospel right now (and, in the abstract, we may be right).  But the truth of the matter is that by us doing what we want when we want to, our righteous desires may result in tragic circumstances (or even just missed opportunities).

                The world and the tapestry of intermingling threads of destiny are so complex that none of us can ever predict the consequences of our actions.  We are utterly dependent on the Lord (rather than our own limited wisdom and good intentions) in order to not work against the Lord and to accomplish the greatest good we can on His behalf.

Alma 10

(September 20, 2015)
                We have, in our culture, a prosperity gospel that sometimes threatens to replace the Gospel.  In the prosperity gospel, we see people that are successful in their chosen profession, and we believe that they must be particularly righteous.  This, of course, is in contrast to the envious gospel, where we see someone successful and we believe they must be particularly evil.

                In reality, of course, wealth is really only tangential to our worth as children of God (so small of an impact as to be negligible).  It only becomes more meaningful when it becomes associated with pride, greed, envy, and other negative spiritual characteristics (or with sacrifice, charity, and other positive ones).  But this chapter makes it expressly clear that riches – even when those riches are acquired through industry – are not synonymous with righteousness.

Doctrine and Covenants 10

(September 19, 2015)
                The Lord is very clear that His battles are His battles to win, and our job is just to fight in them.  The Lord expressly states wo be to them that lie because they think that another lies.  He doesn’t say this only because (as in the case with Joseph) sometimes you could be wrong about the one you are lying about.  No, it is far more insidious when you believe that the sins of another justify you in engaging in deceit.

                I have, sadly, gone through this process myself.  There are those in my life who became convinced that I was lying about a given subject (I wasn’t, but that is irrelevant for this discussion).  Because they thought that I was guilty of something and just not getting caught, they determined that they would fabricate evidence of my crimes.  Surely that wouldn’t be too bad, right?  After all, all they were doing was lying about the evidence they had about something that I must be doing and getting away with.

                The cascading consequences from this dishonesty on their part has been horrific.  It has been tragic to me, to them, and to a number of innocents hurt by their actions.  They cannot admit to their lies (even now), and have tied themselves to their lies like an anchor.  While I hope for their repentance for their actions (and I certainly no longer bear them ill will – through everything, the Lord has greatly blessed me far more than they have hurt me), I don’t see how they can get from where they are to where they would need to be to repent.

                That is the great danger of excusing our own behavior based upon the behavior of others.  Once we put us in the ‘good’ category and someone else in the ‘evil’ category, and we then say that we can take whatever evil actions we need to take and they will be justified because we are ‘good’ and they are ‘evil,’ we place ourselves beyond the power of the Atonement – not because the Lord cannot save us but rather because in the very moment we sin we feel that we do not need saving.  We enact damnation on our souls.

                This Section contains another reminder of who makes up the Lord’s Church – whosoever repents and comes to the Lord is His Church.  If we justify our evil because of someone else’s evil, we are no longer repenting of that evil and have by so doing placed ourselves outside of His Church.

Alma 9

(September 19, 2015)
                I have noticed, from discussions with people online, that when they resist the Gospel so much of their effort is spent on engaging the mechanism rather than the message.  In this chapter, we have an example of this (they won’t believe because there is only one witness).

                Recently I have been put into a position where I am struggling with something that was handled in a manner that seems clearly biased.  I disagree with the outcome, and I take a good portion of my disagreement in the outcome from the unreliable mechanism that undergirded the outcome.  Reading this chapter, though, and thinking things through I began to worry whether I was doing the same thing.

                But an understanding of proper mechanisms for the delivery of information is not an idle concern.  If it were, the Lord would not consider himself bound by the law of witnesses (for example).  I think the greater flaw in the people in this chapter was not that they didn’t believe Alma because he was but a single witness, but rather that this was merely an excuse for them to ignore the presentation of their sins.  When a second witness spoke, they didn’t suddenly reconsider their position – they found a new reason to disbelieve.

                In the end, I think that is the difference between my situation and theirs.  I have tried to get a fair and unbiased resolution of the matter I am dealing with – and if that unbiased handling of the matter were to occur (even if the result is the same), I am prepared to accept it.  While I believe both the procedure and result were deeply flawed, I am not using my problems with the procedure to justify ignoring the result.  Instead, I look at the flaws in the procedure and leading to a flawed result.  Were the proper procedures followed and the same result to come about, I would accept that result – and would consider it a blessing because it would give me direction and confidence in the result.  Therein is the difference.

Doctrine and Covenants 7-9

(September 18, 2015)
                I had two thoughts as I read through these Sections.  The first was on why the questions that they posed about John were answered.  After all, it isn’t like they were necessary for salvation, and they weren’t directly under their stewardship.  It seems like, in this instance, the Lord was giving them an unnecessary piece of revelation.  Of course, that is unlikely, which means it is far more likely that I am missing something.  But I can’t see what I am missing.

                Secondly, the language that Oliver didn’t continue as he commenced seems to me to indicate that Oliver did commence and commenced correctly (for at least some portion of time).  Did this mean that Oliver translated some (potentially small) portion of the Book of Mormon? I think a fair reading of this Section would indicate that to be true.

                Of course, this really means very little in the grand scheme of things.  But it does make me wonder whether Oliver wrote anything on the translation process. Any insights he had would seem to be highly probative.

Alma 8

(September 18, 2015)
                I’ll admit that there is some basic doctrine that I still struggle to understand.  For example, why is it necessary for Alma (or anyone, for that matter) to wrestle with the Lord in mighty prayer?  After all, the people that Alma is attempting to bring to the knowledge of the Gospel are Father’s children first.  He loves them more than Alma does, and wants the best for them.  So why is their deliverance seemingly conditional on Alma wrestling with the Lord in prayer?  And if their salvation is not contingent on the prayers of Alma, what purpose do those prayers then serve?

                I get that we are to pray, but from my understanding of prayer it does more to change us than it does to change the Lord.  Is that why Alma’s mighty prayer was necessary in this case?  Is that the means through which Alma was made into a missionary capable of carrying the Lord’s message?  That makes sense to me, but I don’t know whether I am making things too complicated and looking beyond the mark.

Doctrine and Covenants 6

(September 17, 2015)
                I loved the language in this chapter that every time he inquired of the Lord, he received instruction.  Notice what is not said – it doesn’t say that every time he inquired of the Lord he was given the answer that he sought.  No, instead it says that he received instruction. I think this is more common than we realize – what we see as unanswered questions, when we go to the Lord to inquire of Him, is rather Him teaching us what we need to know rather than what we want to know.

                And, of course, this is desperately important.  The second half to what the Lord says here illustrates that.  But for this instruction, he would not have come to the place he was at that time.  The margin, sometimes, between holding to the iron rod and losing your grip is razor thin.  I have often thought that even if I had the power to go back in time and change things I wouldn’t because I wouldn’t know what I could change that wouldn’t result in me being lost to the Lord.  I think that the instruction that we receive from the Lord in response to our inquiries (even when it doesn’t directly answer them the way that we want them to) is what has brought us to where we are in the same way it brought him.

                My other thought was on the phrase “what greater witness can you have than from God?”  I have always been partial to this scripture, as it played a role in my first spiritual confirmation of the Book of Mormon.  But beyond that, there is true doctrine there.  So many in our modern society look to miracles, or look to science and archaeology, for confirmation that the Gospel is true.  But these witnesses are always secondary (and insufficient) to the true witness that comes from the Lord.

                What greater witness can you have than from God?  None.  Not science, not archaeology, not miracles…nothing.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Alma 6-7

(September 17, 2015)
                We have language that is seemingly contradictory in these two chapters, but truly it is not.  First, we are told to be temperate in all things.  Some people take that as a means of denigrating those who are diligently trying to walk the path that leads back to God (using temperance, almost, as a club to wield against those they find overzealous).

                But almost immediately thereafter we are told to be diligent in keeping the commandments of God.  While we are to be temperate, it is true, that temperance does not excuse disobedience towards God’s commandments.  Zealotry in turning our wills over to God is no vice – it only becomes a vice when we serve ourselves or our pride with our zealotry rather than the Lord.

Alma 5

(September 16, 2015)
                Time and again we are reminded in the scriptures that the true Church means something different than the organizational body that we think of as the Church.  Some people use this, of course, to claim that the Church is not necessary or beneficial, but this is an example of Satan pushing us to the extremes in both directions instead of finding the truth in the middle.  He wants us either believing that the Church is all that matters, or he wants us being spiritual but not religious (which is essentially the doctrine of Nehor, when you get right down to it).

                The truth, of course, is between the two.  The Church (particularly the Priesthood) is absolutely essential and the organizational body represents the Kingdom of God on Earth.  But as important as it is to be a member of that Church (and, in the end, it is essential) the true church actually means something a little bit different.  There are those who belong to Christ’s Church who do not belong to the organizational body we have today – and, in the end, that will be rectified.  There are those who belong to the organizational body who do not belong to Christ’s Church – and, sadly, that too will ultimately be rectified.

                Our obligation, then, it to hold as closely to the organizational body as we can, but under no circumstances to deviate from the true church (as defined by those repenting and coming unto Christ).

Alma 3-4

(September 15, 2015)
                It is impossible to read the scriptures without becoming aware of the racial components that exists within its pages.  Some people read this, and it becomes their motivation to turn away from the Church.  Others read it, and it becomes their motivation to hold to the belief that there is some truth to the idea of racial differences that are meaningful.  Still others read it, and it becomes a reminder to them that even prophets and apostles are human beings trapped in their own time and subject to prejudices which they remain unaware of (which they claim to would or would not have escaped from, depending on the charity of the one espousing this position).

                Frankly, though, this seems to me to be a bit of a waste.  After all, we are so rarely told why.  Far more often we are told what, and it takes all of our capacity to live up to that charge.  Today we are told to treat everyone as the children of God that they are, so what does it matter what people in centuries or millennia past were told?  It is either a weapon against the Church or against others, but it still draws no one closer to God by examining it.

                The other thought I had was on the persecution against those who did not believe according to their own will and pleasure.  It is not enough, with some people, to control other’s actions.  No, they want to control their very thoughts and beliefs, and will engage in any number of terrible activities in order to do so.  Whether it is the abuse of one spouse against another in an effort for control, or the propaganda of one group to control the narrative, it amounts to a denigration of God-given human agency.  The Lord did not need to abrogate our agency to accomplish His Atonement, so why do we ever think we need to abrogate the agency of others in order to further His work?

Doctrine and Covenants 4-5

(September 14, 2015)
                Here we have a perfect example of the way that the Lord interacts with us as we pray to Him.  The Lord stood ready to give what was asked for – He wanted to give what was asked for! – but before He would give it to them, he needed them to humble themselves first.

                The same is true for us, as His children.  There are miracles that we desperately need, but our pride prevents us from receiving these miracles.  If only we could find it within ourselves to humble ourselves and ask the Lord in faith, we would find ourselves given the very things we stand in need of.  Instead, however, all too often we end up having events drive us into humility by force when the Lord stood ready to assist us.

Alma 2

(September 14, 2015)
                There is a great deal of hope in this chapter.  Alma and his people were stuck in what can only be described as a tactically disastrous position.  Elsewhere we read that the Nephites went out of their way to put the Lamanites into this very same position and thereafter slaughtered them wholesale as a result.  Yet because the people of Alma put their trust in God, they were able to survive and conquer.

                Sometimes each of us will find ourselves (through our own mistakes or possibly through no fault of our own) put into tactically disastrous positions.  In these positions, we may feel like any hope of survival is gone.  But if we turn to the Lord, even then, we will find that God has the power to save us no matter how bad our circumstances may be.  Surely He will not always save us (sometimes the Christians got eaten by the lions, after all) but it isn’t because of any lack of capacity on His part but rather as a demonstration of His love for us and a promise of better things to come.

Doctrine and Covenants 2-3

(September 13, 2015)
                I hadn’t thought much about the statement that God didn’t walk in crooked paths before (other than to think that it meant that God didn’t break moral laws to accomplish His purposes), but as I read it this time I think I gained a better understanding of what it really meant.  I think, based upon the reading today, it means that God doesn’t have (nor need) a backup plan.

                God has a purpose for this world, and every moment of every day everywhere in the universe the relentless progress towards that purpose continues.  There is never a time when God needs to back up and change courses.  God knows the end from the beginning, and all things work together for His perfect Plan.  There is a great comfort that comes from this, in actuality.  There is power in the phrase “God does not walk in crooked paths” that I didn’t recognize at first glance.

Alma 1

(September 13, 2015)
                Lies and deception are sadly all too commonplace today.  But lies cannot survive a face-to-face with the truth, and must silence the truth at all costs.  The fundamental First Amendment argument is that the counter to bad speech is not less speech but more speech because, in the end, truth will win out.  Lies cannot have that confidence.

                That can guide us when we are wondering if we are being deceptive (including self-deceptive).  Do we want to silence those who disagree with us?  Or do we want to engage those who disagree with us?  Is it more important that everyone is fully heard, or is it more important that one side is not heard?  These sorts of things are key indicators in whether we are lying to ourselves and don’t want to be found out.

                If we are in a position where we are trying to silence the opposition, or silence anyone, it is a really bad sign.  The Lord works through truth and light, and doesn’t need to hide in order to accomplish His work.

Doctrine and Covenants 1

(September 12, 2015)
                The Lord’s statement here that whether it is by His voice or the voice of His servants, it is the same is a statement that it often misunderstood.  We so often take the statement to mean that the words of His servants are speaking the words that He would speak if He were present.  But I think that goes beyond what the Lord is actually saying.

                We are told to obey the words of His words, whether by His own voice or the voice of His servants.  This doesn’t mean that each of His servants will precisely say what He would have them to say, but it does mean that we are obligated to obey them as if they had said precisely what He wanted them to say.  Their words are not perfect, but their position is.  We are a hierarchical Church.

                I have, unfortunately, had some experience with this in my life.  I have had a Priesthood leader who gave me extensive counsel in his role as my Priesthood leader.  This counsel was clearly biased, based upon his personal feelings and prejudices along with his concern for another person. He interjected himself into a matter that, frankly, was outside of his stewardship and he did so in a way that was extremely painful and damaging to me.

                I was left with a choice – do I follow him, or do I follow my own judgment.  The answer was as simple as it was painful – I followed him as if his words were the words of the Lord.  All of my concerns about his bias and the pain it would cause me came true.  All of the unfair consequences that I expected to come from his exceeding of his stewardship came true.  His bias has caused me lasting damage that may never be fully healed in mortality.

                In the end, though, we follow unjust leaders and mistaken leaders and biased leaders because at the head of the Church is a perfect leader.  When we follow those who hurt us (especially when they hurt us), we are instead doing our best to follow Him.  We place our trust in Him that He will dry every tear when we do our very best to do what He would have us do – whether told to us by His perfect voice or the imperfect and fallible voice of His servants.

Mosiah 29

(September 12, 2015)
                ‘What if?’ questions are some of the hardest to deal with as we read the scriptures – and this chapter has a doozy.  What if Aaron had taken the kingdom from his father?  Did the Amalekites (assuming that they are Amalecites) arise from the power vacuum that came from the sons of Mosiah abdicating?  If so, would a good portion of the wars and infighting have been averted (no Amalecites, no king men, etc.)?  I think that a convincing argument can be made for this.

                I think that we need to be careful that, even when we are trying to do the right thing that we also do the best thing (meaning the thing that the Lord wants us to do).  I am not saying that Aaron didn’t here – he very well might have, and I don’t know enough to say that he didn’t – but let’s presume that he made the wrong choice.  How many people suffered because his desire to do good was not tempered by the understanding of his duty and the perspective that only the Lord has?

                Could Aaron have taken the throne, and we would be reading of the missionary exploits of Ammon and his two other brothers?  Would it have made that big of a different?  Who knows (I certainly don’t).  The lesson to me, though, is that we can never have enough information to make proper decisions and we cannot merely be content to make decisions with good (or even the best) motivations.  The only real hope we have is making decisions based upon revelation from the Lord.

Explanatory Introduction; Testimony of the Twelve

(September 11, 2015)
                This introduction highlights a powerful benefit of the Doctrine and Covenants above all other scripture we have.  With other scriptures, the stories, discourses, revelations, and so forth have been refined, edited, and massaged over centuries of retelling to make them appear (at times) superhuman.  This is, of course, a good thing in that it gives us examples to live up to (and, of course, with a little bit of effort the truth becomes apparent).  But it also denies us the understanding that the Lord works through imperfect vessels to accomplish His work – and a lack of understanding of that truth can cause problems for us today.

                With the Doctrine and Covenants, however, we see that Joseph Smith was a imperfect man – which, interestingly enough, makes his accomplishments all the more astounding.  We see the Lord working among men without the photoshopping of history that naturally takes place over the centuries.  By seeing these people as they really are, we see how the Lord really operates – and we can then learn how He operates in our lives as well (seeing as how we are also imperfect).

Mosiah 28

(September 11, 2015)

                There is an interesting construct here – the people were sorrowing, yet because they were acquiring knowledge they were also rejoicing.  That sums up, I think, the proper response to at least a portion of our trials in mortality.  Though they may cause suffering, if we can look at what we are experiencing and recognize that we are developing knowledge as a result these trials then become a source of joy even as they produce sorrow.

Revelations 21-22

(September 10, 2015)
                As I read through these chapters, I struggle to see how anyone could read this and still believe in the Nicean Creed.  There is, as you read carefully, a clear delineation between Christ (who John knew) and the Father.  Christ goes out of His way to make that difference clear to John (presumably because He knew how Platonism would infect the Gospel), but to no avail.

                The other thing that struck me was on Christ not allowing John to worship Him – expressly pointing out to him that even post-resurrection, Christ was a fellow-servant of the Father.

                We know of Christ’s importance – no man can come to the Father but by Him.  But we also know of His humility, in that He is fully satisfied if all glory goes to His (and our) Father.  Even after completing the Atonement, He maintained this level of humility.

                I have, admittedly, struggled to know the line that I was to walk between worshiping Christ (the center of our faith) and worshipping the Father.  But, in the end, I suppose I can do no better than doing what Christ asks of me – while understanding His essential role, directing all praise and glory and thanksgiving to the Father.

Mosiah 27

(September 10, 2015)
                I had a couple of thoughts as I read through this chapter today.  The first was on the language that our works bring Grace.  This is an interesting way of presenting things, but I think it is also an accurate one.

                We understand that Grace is the enabling power of the Atonement.  We don’t deserve it, but we must accept it. Sometimes (perhaps all of the time) the way that we accept it is through taking actions – working – in order to apply that power into our lives. 

                We could not grow vegetables without the Sun.  We did nothing to deserve the Sun’s light, but we need it for everything.  Still, if we fail to plant we will not reap.  We are ungrateful when we deny the Lord’s hand in our harvest but we are slothful if we don’t plant in the first place.

                The other thought was on the belief that nothing could shake the Earth and cause it to tremble save it were the power of God.  The interesting thing about that is that we now have technologies that can cause the earth to shake and to tremble.  Is there a contradiction there?  Is there a lesson to be learned (the power of God is found in technology)?  Or is it simply a statement accurate at the time that it was made, but not meant to be an eternal statement?  I tend to lean towards the latter.

Revelations 19-20

(September 9, 2015)
                I have always assumed that those who were marked with the mark of the beast were the most wicked of the wicked and willingly chose to fight against the Lamb of God.  But the language here doesn’t support that assumption – in fact, it contradicts it.  We read here that those with the mark of the beast were deceived, which is a frightening thought.

                Our powers of self-deception are massive and dangerous.  We can think ourselves righteous even when we are doing the most horrible things.  It is only through constant effort and prayers that we can keep ourselves on the right track (aided by the scriptures acting as an iron rod to keep us from convincing ourselves we are on the strait and narrow path long after we have gone astray).

Mosiah 26

(September 9, 2015)
                We tend to make membership in the Church an orthodox method for determining righteousness.  If we are a member of the true Church, we are favored of the Lord.  For those who are not members of His Church, they are the other – outside, unrighteous (or, at least, less-righteous).

                But, of course, the truth is much simpler than that.  The Lord has said over and over again that His Church is made up of those who are repenting and coming to Him.  Even with the importance of the Priesthood and the organization, this truth has not gone away. 

                It is safe to say that the membership of the Lord’s true Church is not precisely equal to the membership of the Lord’s Church as defined by those who are repenting and coming unto Him.  What are we to make of the difference?

                After having gone round and round with this issue, in the end I think the answer is nothing.  There really is no great concern with the lack of precise correlation here.  There are those outside the formal Church who are members of Christ’s Church.  They will find their way where they need to be in the end.  There are those who are in the Lord’s formal Church who are not repenting or coming to Him.  They will, sadly, find their way out of Christ’s Church in the end (whether in this life or the hereafter).

                But the unifying thought through all of this is the importance for each of us to forgive those around us, or else we will find ourselves brought under condemnation.

Revelations 16-18

(September 8, 2015)
                I had two thoughts as I read through these chapters.  The first was on the reality that there are those who would prefer to blaspheme than to repent – even when their destruction was imminent.  A fundamental theory behind our economic and political systems is that of rational self-interest.  And as I work through spiritual issues, I believe that there is a level (perhaps a total level) of rational self-interest when it comes to spiritual things as well.

                What is most important to us?  Is it joy?  Then we will serve and follow the Savior.  Is it our pride, or our delight in wickedness?  Then we will blaspheme rather than repent.  This world, of course, is a test (and a good one at that) which will allow us in the end to both know what we have chosen as our interest (even if what we choose is wrong or leads to lesser joy) and will develop us to receive that in the eternities.

                The second thought was on the vague nature of prophecies.  It seems that there are two types of prophecies that we see in the scriptures.  The first are vague but available to those who can affect the outcomes.  The second are specific, but available only to those who cannot affect the outcome.  Thus Nephi’s prophecies were more specific than John’s (as an example).  This, of course, makes perfect sense.

Mosiah 24-25

(September 8, 2015)
                In our modern society, we seem to equate progress with righteousness.   When technology increases, or we acquire a peace (meaning a cessation of open hostilities), we think that this must be because we are more righteous than those who came before.

                Likewise, in our personal lives, we may ascribe to this same conceit.  We believe that because we have a big house and a good job, we must be righteous.  We think that so long as our financial, educational, or social situation is improving, then we likewise must be improving.

                Of course, there is no evidence of this from the scriptures.  If anything, the scriptures directly contradict this conceit.  For example, the Lamanites (through the influence of the Amulonites) progressed in trade and prosperity.  The acquired a measure of peace.  They increased in riches, and waxed great.  Yet Mormon specifically tells us that they did this without any corresponding increase in righteousness – they did not learn of the Lord, or the words of Moses, or the words of Abinidi.  They actually delighted in wickedness, even as they increased in prosperity.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Revelations 14-15

(September 7, 2015)
                In my other scripture reading today, the reality that life isn’t fair at all was examined.  But here we see flipside of that position – though life isn’t fair at all, eternity is.  We have the comforting words that the works of the righteous follow after them.  Even if doing the right thing leads to traumatic and horrible results here in mortality and everything is unfair in how life treats you, you can feel confident that the day will come when the Lord will make all things right – He will dry every tear.

                This is the source of patience in affliction.  This is the perspective that empowers us to become prepared for eternity. And, frankly, with the duration of eternity the capacity for patience is an absolutely necessary trait that we must each develop.

Mosiah 22-23

(September 7, 2015)
                The people of Alma, having been driven from their homes and forced into the wilderness, would have (in a worldly sense) had every right to complain to the Lord about their treatment.  After all, they converted and fled into the wilderness.  And they made arrangements to maintain their freedom by helping the Lamanites.  In the end, of course, none of that mattered.

                We like to think that the purpose of life includes some element of fairness, but I see little evidence that it does.  Certainly some of the greatest blessings of my life I haven’t deserved, and the same is true for some of the greatest challenges (at least as far as I can tell).  But fairness is not the reason the world was created – if it were, then we would not have been provided a Savior.

                Instead of fairness, the primary driving force in mortality (and the eternities) is progression.  The Lord doesn’t give us the challenges we deserve, He gives us the challenges that will make us better.  He doesn’t give us the blessings we deserve, He gives us the blessings that will make us better.  Thinking about what we think is or isn’t fair, in light of that, is meaningless.

Revelations 12-13

(September 6, 2015)
                We are taught a very important lesson in these chapters.  All of those who dwell on the Earth either worship Satan or worship God.  There is no middle ground, despite the protestations of many that they are in fact neutral in the Earthly continuation of the War in Heaven.

                The only way to escape being on the side of Satan is to fully and completely do everything within our power to turn our wills completely over to the Lord.  Then, and only then, will we be on the right side.  Until such time as we do so, however, it is not that we haven’t picked a side but rather that we are on the wrong side.

Mosiah 21

(September 6, 2015)
                There is a very human tendency to think that if we are good at one thing that we are good at everything.  If we are successful in our chosen careers, we think our opinion about morality or politics or medicine matters.  One of the most amusing (yet destructive) ways this manifests is in the scientists who, because of their knowledge, think they are fit to opine on moral or theological subjects clearly beyond the reach of science.

                We see a great example of the opposite here.  Ammon is a worthy man, with a testimony of Mosiah’s capacities.  He is brave, and must have some capacity as he was chosen to lead the expedition to the people of Limhi and he was able to lead them out of the predicament they were in.  And yet, despite this, he found himself an unworthy servant to baptize the people when they asked him.

                We each have been given our stewardships, and whom the Lord calls He qualifies.  But beyond that, we must be careful to recognize our weaknesses outside of limited areas of competence.  We especially should be cautious to avoid the belief that our intellectual or professional accomplishments somehow make us experts on religious or moral matters outside of our stewardships (and yes, I am aware of the irony in making that statement in this forum).

Revelations 9-11

(September 5, 2015)
                Sometimes I think we see the flow of history as universally positive.  We went (in our minds) from the Dark Ages to the Renaissance to the Industrial Revolution to the iPad.  Next year, to many, the march of progress will continue on (after all, there will be a newer model iPad).  We think that things are getting better and better all the time.

                Ideas like this are among the dangers of a poor educational system.  History is replete with advances and decays.  During the Dark Ages, we took a rather large step backwards (except for the monasteries – which continued advancing).  But even if human knowledge continues to advance, the key question is human morality, and I dare say few of us can claim it is going in the right direction.

                The reason I say this is because the destruction that we read has been prophesied of in these chapters is coming.  If we believe that the future will be roses and buttercups, we are in for a disappointment.  Optimism is fine (we know the Lord will win), but so is realism – and we know that things will get worse before the Lord carries His Kingdom triumphant to present to His Father.

Mosiah 19-20

(September 5, 2015)
                Gideon found himself in a very awkward position.  He had taken an oath that he would slay Noah.  Shortly after, he found himself in the position where he could accomplish his oath.  Yet at that very time, the advancing armies of the Lamanites were coming into the land and threatening the destruction of his people.

                Gideon was left with a choice – does he follow through on his oath (something so important in ancient cultures that the violation of this rule often leads to death) or does he put the safety of his people before  his own personal righteousness?

                Interestingly enough, though we see what decision he made in this chapter I don’t think that we can clearly see what the right decision was.  After all, Noah clearly did little to bring about the salvation of his people.  Would they have been better off had Noah been slain before he could lead the men away?  Or would that have left the corrupt priests in charge or perhaps even brought about the complete destruction of the people?  I don’t know, but it is an intriguing question because the issue of personal righteousness or helping others comes up far more than it ought to (even though it seems like it shouldn’t come up at all) and while it is easy to say that our focus should be on personal righteousness it is not clear that this is always the best choice.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Revelations 6-8

(September 4, 2015)
                I have trouble knowing how to feel about the fact that the Lord will avenge the wrongs done to us.  Even now, when some pretty horrible and unfair things have been done to me by those who were supposed to be supports, and even now, when I have been betrayed by people who I went to for help and instead was given further injury, despite all of that, I don’t feel my soul crying out for vengeance.

                I mostly feel sadness, because I don’t see that the people who hurt me are ever going to examine what they have done and seek repentance.  I see, in the Lord’s own due time, that those who have hurt me will bear the costs of what they have done.  But I see that with pity rather than elation.  The matter is so far beyond anything that I can affect, of course – there is nothing that I could ever do that would help change the way some people have chosen to perceive their own actions – but I nevertheless feel sad.

                I wonder what that means.  Am I missing something, in that I am not calling out for the Lord to avenge the wrongs done to me?  Is that demonstrating some defect in my character (an insufficient understanding of justice, perhaps) that I should correct?  Or is it possibly just a matter of a difference in culture?  I don’t know.

Mosiah 18

(September 4, 2015)
                First, let me be clear – the Priesthood is the authority to act in the name of God.  If I didn’t know that before, it has been pounded into my head through sometimes painful experience recently, to the point where I understand that even when the actions taken through the Priesthood are wrong those actions are sanctioned by the Lord (though He fortunately also stands ready to support those who might be hurt in the process).

                But while the Priesthood is real, there is also conventions around the Priesthood which have more to do with culture than doctrine.  For example, Alma baptized himself – this would be utterly impermissible in modern times, but here we have a prophet of the Lord doing it.  Same with the way Joseph Smith was baptized.  Some things that we might think are necessary in exercising the Priesthood are anything but.

                So what do we do when confronted by these cultural conventions?  I think the correct answer is to follow them.  The Priesthood includes the keys being placed in the hands of our Priesthood leaders to restrict their usage based upon their discretion (directed by the Lord, which I think is most often the case, or self-directed).  Just because we feel that a certain rule is put in place for arbitrary or cultural reasons, that does not excuse violating that rule.

                I think the example of blacks and the Priesthood is illuminating.  Whether the withholding of the Priesthood for blacks was inspired or not (and I believe, based upon President McKay’s experience in the temple that I was inspired) it was still the rule.  Those who spoke out against it were in violation of the Lord’s pattern.  Even though they were correct that blacks would ultimately be given the Priesthood, and even if they were right about the origin of the ban, it did not justify violating the established order of things because those keys were not in their hands and their actions were in conflict with the person with those keys.

Revelations 3-5

(September 3, 2015)
                Two thoughts through these chapters.  The first was a new way that I discovered to read Revelations.  In the past, I have learned the benefits of reading the war chapters in the Book of Mormon symbolically – with the geography as the soul, being fought over by good impulses (Nephites) and bad (Lamanites).  This has led to some interesting and valid conclusions.

                I thought, as I began reading today, that this might be possible with Revelations as well.  I read these chapters in this way today, and I suppose over time I will discover whether it is a valid way to receive spiritual insights or not.

                The other thought that I had was in relation to zealousness.  For some, moderation is not only a virtue but the virtue.  This, of course, cannot be the case and these chapters demonstrate that.  Not only is being zealous appropriate at times but we are also commanded to be zealous.

                Do we imagine that there would ever be a time when the Lord looks down on us and tells us that we are striving too hard to follow in His footsteps and do what He would have us do?  Of course not.  Perhaps we might be following Him in the wrong way, and that is a danger of zealotry.  But if we combine zealotry with humility and the willingness to be taught, we have a powerful combination and what I think is the result that we need to aspire to.

Mosiah 16-17

(September 3, 2015)
                We sometimes like to think that, if only we experienced enough miracles, we would be converted and believe and do everything that we should do.  Having experienced miracles in my life, then losing my testimony, and then regaining it and becoming converted I can tell you from personal experience that this simply isn’t the way things happen.

                Of course, we have an example of that here.  Abinidi, miraculously, is about to withstand the guards and deliver the message given to him by God.  The moment he finishes his message, he is condemned to death.  You would think, having just seen a miracle, that Noah might be a little reluctant to execute Abinidi – but he wasn’t.

                In contrast, we see that Alma was converted, but we read specifically that he was not converted by the miracle but rather by Abinidi’s words.  At most, the miracle helped to prepare the ground so that Alma carefully listened to Abinidi’s words but ultimately Alma was converted to the preaching rather than the miracle.  This matches my life as well.

Revelations 1-2

(September 2, 2015)
                I was struck by the language of the Lord in saying that He gave space to Jezebel to repent (even as she destroyed the children of God), but she did not repent.  Patience in the face of affliction – particularly affliction caused by the actions of others – is a difficult thing to develop.  If possible, it becomes even harder when our patience is demanded in order to benefit the very person that is harming us.

                But we see that the Lord loves those who hurt us (even deliberately) just as much as He loves us.  He wants to give each of us a chance to repent, and this is a blessing because while we are being hurt by this person, we are undoubtedly hurting someone else.  So patience in affliction not only helps us develop, but benefits those that hurt us and we should develop gratitude for this fact.

Mosiah 15

(September 2, 2015)
                I suppose it is a very common desire to be redeemed in our sins.  I can understand why we may want that result – after all, walking the path of discipleship is hard, painful, and relentless.  We might want to receive the blessings of redemption without the necessity of the work.

                But, of course, that is impossible (just as Abinidi said).  Most particularly because redemption necessitates leaving our sins.  We cannot become clean sitting in a mud pit.  We cannot become dry swimming in the ocean.  And we cannot be redeemed until we leave our sins.