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Defining and understanding “Charity”

They don’t write definitions the way they used to anymore. This is just one more great reason why I love Webster’s 1828 Dictionary. The standard definition for ‘selfish’ is pretty straightforward, but then you come to ‘selfishly’ and then POW, you’ve got some brilliantly delivered doctrine!

SELF’ISHLY, adv. The exclusive of a person to his own interest or happiness; or that supreme self-love or self-preference, which leads a person in his actions to direct his purposes to the advancement of his own interest, power or happiness, without regarding the interest of others. Selfishness, in its worst or unqualified sense, is the very essence of human depravity, and it stands in direct opposition to benevolence, which is the essence of the divine character. As God is love, so man, in his natural state, is selfishness.

So if we want to dig a little deeper here, we will find a profound truth. We are used to two ends of a spectrum in our faith, we usually speak of pride and humility. But, in my opinion there is something more specifically worse than pride and infinitely greater than humility; it is selfishness on one end and at the other end, charity, which is the benevolence of Christ.

So what is Read Full Post

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Atonement and the sacred thou at the center of Joseph Smith’s Revelations by Blake T. Ostler

Visit http://blakeostler.com/ for more books, articles and information about Blake T. Ostler

by Blake T. Ostler

Blake T. Ostler

It is significant, for reasons that I will explain shortly, that Joseph Smith did not arrive at his understanding based on a theological analysis. Given his penchant for the prophetic, it is understandable that his views are not expressed as a systematic logic of carefully crafted axioms and assumptions. His ideas are not the result of logical calculation but of sacred revelation, not of evidential proof but of intimate experience. His views are expressed as rhetorical exhortations and devotional observations rather than analysis and argument. His religious vision was more like sparks flying from a flint wheel than a seamless fabric of postulates and premises. However, these sparks did not careen off the wheel at random; rather, they flashed in a common direction and in interesting patterns. His insights are like embers of thought deep in the heart seeking to catch fire; like fuel for creative contemplation. Read Full Post

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Holocaust

What does “holocaust” mean? Most people might instantly without thinking throw out a reference to the mass slaughter of humans (esp. Jews) by the Nazis during World War 2.

To illustrate, a person on Yahoo Answers asked the question: “Why is the holocaust called the ‘holocaust?” To which the ‘best answer chosen’ was:

“Because the word “holocaust” means “an act of mass destruction,” in the case of “The” Holocaust it was the mass destruction of 11 million lives.”

Technically the word “holocaust” doesn’t mean “an act of mass destruction.” That may be what the general understanding of the word today is, but words are complex things and most often have intriguing histories behind them.

Let’s turn to a modern dictionary to find out. Dictionary.com defines “holocaust” as:

  1. a great or complete devastation or destruction, esp. by fire.
  2. a sacrifice completely consumed by fire; burnt offering.
  3. (usually initial capital letter) the systematic massslaughter of European Jews in Nazi concentration campsduring World War II (usually prec. by the ).
  4. any mass slaughter or reckless destruction of life.

Sounds pretty much like what we would have expected to find in Read Full Post

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Sacrament: The Witness of the Willing

The idea of ‘renewing’ a covenant seems initially kind of strange when I think about it. A covenant is a contract so if you break the terms of the contract isn’t the contract null and void? Why do we have to keep renewing a promise that we have already made? Or how about this: Why would God make a covenant with man, if he knows that every single one of us will break it?

I was thinking back to the era of the Law of Moses. God made covenants with Israel, yet they still had these sin and peace offerings that they could make from time to time as needed. So what exactly is going on here with the covenants we make today? When doctrinal issues seem a bit muddled, it’s always best to go to back to the source and break everything down into digestible parts.

Let’s examine the sacrament prayers themselves for more insight on the covenants we make.

The blessing on the bread:

“O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it; that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he has given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.”

First, we learn that we are eating the bread in remembrance Read Full Post

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Understanding the atonement by understanding the body

Many of the following quotes were obtained by a presentation given at BYU by Philip A. Allred called “Made Holy in the Body“.

The body is a recording device.

Our body is literally a recording device, it is equipped with at least five known senses with which we take in the world around us. With our brain, we process the information and with our will we determine what to do with it. Here are some quotes from Presidents of the Church on this topic.

From President John Taylor:

“…I could show you upon scientific principles that man himself is a self-registering machine, his eyes, his ears, his nose, the touch, the taste, and all the various senses of the body, are so many media whereby man lays up for himself a record…” (Pres. John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, 26:32.)

From Elder Bruce R. McConkie:

In a real though figurative sense, the book of life is the record of the acts of men as such record is written in their own bodies. It is the record engraven on the very bones, sinews, and flesh of the mortal body. That is, every thought, word, and deed has an effect on the human body; all these leave their marks… (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 97.)

Again from Pres. Taylor:

God has made each man a register within himself…. Your eyes and ears have taken it in, and your hands have touched it… (Pres. John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, 11:77-80).

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Mormon 8:12

Mormon 8:12
And whoso receiveth this record, and shall not condemn it because of the imperfections which are in it, the same shall know of greater things than these. Behold, I am Moroni; and were it possible, I would make all things known unto you.

Much time is spent by some seeking to find a secular explanation for the existence of the Book of Mormon while others who work to counter the critics and dig deeper for clues that point to a work of divine origin.

Even though this self-proclaimed imperfect record came into existence through the fumbling hands of imperfect but inspired men, Joseph Smith still felt confident enough in the message to label the Book of Mormon as “the most correct of any book on earth”. Joseph also stated that “a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book,” which is certainly a bold claim by anyone’s standards.

Here is a book with a simple message, it acknowledges its faults but includes a promise that God himself will reveal the truth of it to those who read and ponder its words and then ask with faith in Christ (Moroni 10:3-5).

But can we look past the faults? Do we see them as evidence of fraud or Read Full Post

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Brigham Young on Truth

If you can find a truth…we claim it
“I want to say to my friends that we believe in all good. If you can find a truth in heaven, earth or hell, it belongs to our doctrine. We believe it; it is ours; we claim it.” (DBY, 2)

There is no truth but what belongs to the Gospel
“Mormonism,” so-called, embraces every principle pertaining to life and salvation, for time and eternity. No matter who has it. If the infidel has got truth it belongs to “Mormonism.” The truth and sound doctrine possessed by the sectarian world, and they have a great deal, all belong to this Church. As for their morality, many of them are, morally, just as good as we are. All that is good, lovely, and praiseworthy belongs to this Church and Kingdom. “Mormonism” includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the Gospel. It is life, eternal life; it is bliss; it is the fulness of all things in the gods and in the eternities of the gods.” (DBY, 3)

It is our duty to gather every item of truth and reject every error
It is our duty and calling, as ministers of the same salvation and Gospel, to gather every item of truth and reject every error. Whether a truth be found with professed infidels, or with Read Full Post

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How are we “Saved”?

These questions are prompted by the occasional run-ins I have had with those of other religious traditions. Most of the time, certain verses are put forth as ‘the’ definition of how one obtains salvation. I have heard and seen some of these verses being quoted by people of other religious traditions almost like they stand independent of what the rest of the scriptures have to say. So I decided to lay out and categorize some of the New Testament verses that seem the most specific in saying ‘do this’ and ‘the same shall be saved’.

Belief or Faith

  • “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Acts 16:31)
  • “And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.” (Luke 18:42)

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The Wise Man on the Mountain

After an Institute of Religion class, my teacher and I were having a discussion in his office. He asked if he could show me something; he grabbed a book and took his seat across the table from me. He asked me to close my eyes and focus on envisioning what he was going to be reading to me. What he read was a very descriptive narrative of a climb to the top of a mountain that was meant to be imagined from the perspective of the reader.

This simple narrative was amazingly effective at teaching a few important principles that I will cover later. With a few words, my paradigm had been shifted concerning how I approach my Father in Heaven in prayer.

Below is the text that was read to me and since you can’t read this with your eyes closed, I suggest possibly having someone read this to you or for the time being, read it slow and try and project what you are reading into your mind’s eye. Do your best to clear your mind, find a quiet place and simply focus; if you simply skim it, you will get Read Full Post

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The Two Trees

by Valerie Hudson Cassler

[Author’s Note: This presentation was given with an accompanying PowerPoint that utilized visuals to illustrate the points being made…Also, as a transcript of an oral address, the speech is more colloquial than an academic would normally use; my apologies.]

I’m delighted to be here today with you at FAIR. I think I came last year with Ralph Hancock and Richard Sherlock and we talked a little bit about SquareTwo. [Slide Two, on SquareTwo, is shown.] So to repeat the refrain may I simply remind you that SquareTwo is aiming to be the best online journal of LDS thought concerning the important issues of the world today. Our articles and comments are always reviewed. When we’ve had extremely controversial issues discussed, we’ve had up to 50,000 viewers of our various articles. In fact, just in our last spring issue, the very last issue, we had one of the only articles written about polygamy by a faithful Mormon woman. So there is a female perspective on polygamy, perspective such as D&C 132 makes it absolutely plain that polygamy is an Abrahamic sacrifice. And from what we know of Abrahamic sacrifices, they are always temporally bounded and there is always a ram in the thicket, whether that be in this life or the next life. And that is why we do not baptize those who are living polygamously even in countries where that practice is legal, because outside of a commandment to perform an Abrahamic sacrifice, an Abrahamic sacrifice is always an abomination. However, monogamy is never an abomination; it is rather one of the chief blessings of God. So that’s one of the things you can lay on some of those 16 year old girls who ask you.1

All right, let’s get to the real talk here. I didn’t join the Church because I was a feminist, but Read Full Post

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Belief, Faith, Hope, Perfect Knowledge and the Scientific Method

I had a kind of epiphany a few years ago as I studied Alma chapter 32 and 33 in the Book of Mormon. This chapter covers Alma’s famous discourse on faith, one of the best, if not THE best that you’ll find anywhere in scripture. The sermon presents an beautiful analogy of how fundamental principles for discovering truth work together using the concept of nourishing a seed into a tree of life that bears fruits of knowledge.

The mistake

And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.

Now there’s nothing wrong with this verse, but sometimes during a Sunday School class I will hear this verse cited as the ‘definition of faith’. However, upon a closer read, we can see that this verse only says what faith is not and what you do if you have it. Now these provide clues to understand faith, but they clearly do not tell us what faith is. Faith is not to hope for unseen but true things, that is but one of the many things that one who has faith does. It is similar to saying that the definition of a sandwich is something like this:

And now as I said concerning sandwiches—A sandwich is not a hot dog; but if you eat a sandwich you will not be hungry any more.

Yes, probably a horrible analogy but is my point clear?

See, what happens is that this verse is only scratching the surface, the next few verses go off on an aside Read Full Post

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How Witnesses Described the “Gold Plates”

Compiled by Kirk B. Henrichsen

Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: Volume – 10, Issue – 1, Pages: 16-21
Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, 2001

Material

“the appearance of gold”1Joseph Smith Jr., Eight Witnesses, Orson Pratt

“golden plates”2David Whitmer

“a mixture of gold and copper”3William Smith

Weight

“weighing altogether from forty to sixty lbs.”4Martin Harris

“I was permitted to lift them. . . . They weighed about sixty pounds according to the best of my judgement.”5William Smith

“I . . . judged them to have weighed about sixty pounds.”6William Smith Read Full Post

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Physical Parallels Between The Book of Mormon and Jesus Christ

First and most obvious is the fact that both Jesus and the Book of Mormon initially had a very controversial message. Some recognized truth immediately, while it took some time for others and yet more, even the vast majority, rejected the message altogether.

That said, there are many interesting similarities between the life of Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon itself particularly surrounding the death and resurrection:

Christ: buried and sealed in a stone sepulcher
BofM: buried and sealed in a stone box

Christ: round stone covered tomb
BofM: round stone covered box

Christ: Angels present when stone was rolled back
BofM: Angel present when stone was rolled back

Christ: Taught the word of God
BofM: Teaches the word of God

Christ: Witness saw him, 12 apostles and hundred of others
BofM: Witnesses saw it 12 official witnesses along with several more

Christ: Ascended to heaven with angels present
BofM: Taken back to heaven by an angel

Christ: Must rely on faith to believe
BofM: Must rely on faith to believe

Christ: Only physical evidence remaining are his words
BofM: Only physical evidence remaining are it’s words

Both Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon were buried in the earth and brought forth with angel(s) present, there were witnesses and they were removed from our presence with only their words for us to examine through the Spirit. So here is the Read Full Post

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The Pride and Prosperity Cycles

I used to think of the pride cycle as this long, ongoing, inevitable course that civilizations and people follow in their lives. We certainly see from the scriptures and history that these things repeat themselves and sometimes we focus so much on the disasters and consequences of sin that we don’t really consider when those moments of disaster were averted altogether. How do we reconcile these truths in our current “Pride Cycle” model?

The Pride Cycle

Above is our good old fiend the ‘pride cycle’. Now this cycle isn’t incorrect, as was said before we have seen this happen over and over again, but righteousness and prosperity do not always necessarily lead to pride and wickedness. I remember in a college course on Human Relations the professor asked the question: “What is the number one cause of divorce?” I knew what he thought the answer was but I decided to give the correct answer. I learned the correct answer from Spencer W. Kimball:

“Every divorce is the result of selfishness…” (“Marriage and Divorce” a devotional address given at Brigham Young University on 7 September 1976)

So I raised my hand and gave the answer, “selfishness”. He looked at me for a moment with a thoughtful expression and then said, “No, it’s money actually.” So according to his thinking, you can cause a divorce by dropping by someone’s home and dumping some money on their front door step ;) No, money is not the cause, it’s something deeper, it’s the corruption within the person that is already there and left unchecked and anything left unchecked is a ticking Read Full Post

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Titles for the Third Member of the Godhead

You can tell a lot about someone by their titles. We all carry many titles that say volumes about who we are. Some of the titles I carry are: Husband, Father, Son, Brother, Cousin, Friend, Home Teacher, Elder, Designer, Developer, Artist, the list can go on and on. Think of how many titles you have; you might be surprised.

Below is a fairly comprehensive list. Some might be missing and others might not belong, but here they are nonetheless for you to observe and ponder upon. Some of the titles really make you think. Read Full Post

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Voice of the Spirit Video

This video goes well with my recent post that referenced a similar analogy.

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A Guide to Keeping Your Own “Small Plates”

We learn more about Nephi’s records, or plates, in the front of the Book of Mormon with a section called “A Brief Explanation about the Book of Mormon”:

The Plates of Nephi, which were of two kinds: the Small Plates and the Large Plates. The former were more particularly devoted to the spiritual matters and the ministry and teachings of the prophets, while the latter were occupied mostly by a secular history of the peoples concerned (1 Nephi 9:2–4)

Nephi kept two records, one containing a secular history upon ‘other plates’ which came to be known as the ‘large plates of Nephi’ and another record upon smaller plates that contained primarily prophecies and sacred teachings.

How many of us do a good job with keeping a journal or secular history (large plates) of our lives of any kind at all? It’s no secret that we collectively seem to struggle with this, so how likely is it then that we keep a record of our own personal revelations, answers to prayer, promptings, etc? I would bet that many of us have not even considered doing so in the first place.

First off, let’s see what various church leaders have said on the matter: Read Full Post

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Interpreters and Combinations

The purpose of this article is to explore the physical description of the Nephite “interpreters” (or Urim and Thummim as they were called by Joseph Smith) and their purpose. This article will demonstrate that these artifacts have been passed down for thousands of years and their primary use is for revealing the history of secret Satanic conspiracies upon the American continent as a warning to future inhabitants of this land.

What were they and what did they look like?

Joseph Smith claimed that he translated ancient records with the assistance of a “Urim and Thummim”. The Urim and Thummim were part of the sacred vestments that the high priest wore during the period of Mosaic Law. Here is what the LDS Bible Dictionary says about the Urim and Thummim:

Heb. term that means Lights and Perfections. An instrument prepared of God to assist man in obtaining revelation from the Lord and in translating languages. See Ex. 28: 30; Lev. 8: 8; Num. 27: 21; Deut. 33: 8; 1 Sam. 28: 6; Ezra 2: 63; Neh. 7: 65; JS-H 1: 35.

Using a Urim and Thummim is the special prerogative of a seer, and it would seem reasonable that such instruments were used from the time of Adam. However, the earliest mention is in connection with the brother of Jared (Ether 3: 21-28). Abraham used a Urim and Thummim (Abr. 3: 1-4), as did Aaron and the priests of Israel, and also the prophets among the Nephites (Omni 1: 20-21; Mosiah 8: 13-19; Mosiah 21: 26-28; Mosiah 28: 11-20; Ether 4: 1-7). There is more than one Urim and Thummim, but we are informed that Joseph Smith had the one used by the brother of Jared (Ether 3: 22-28; D&C 10: 1; D&C 17: 1). (See Seer.) A partial description is given in JS-H 1: 35. Joseph Smith used it in translating the Book of Mormon and in obtaining other revelations.

This earth in its celestial condition will be a Urim and Thummim, and many within that kingdom will have an additional Urim and Thummim (D&C 130: 6-11).

It is very difficult to tell what the purpose of these particular implements were used for from the text of the Old Testament. There are a few passages that indicate that they had something to do with revelation; that they were oracles of some kind, but there is nothing indicating that they were used for translating languages Read Full Post

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A Simple Etymological Study Method That Anyone Can Do

Whenever I am preparing a talk, lesson or just studying a topic, I have a small arsenal of tools that I have found extremely effective in digging deeper into doctrinal understanding. Often during this process I experience an amazing clarity on a particular topic; the words “AH HA!” come to mind quite often (which is something we all love don’t we?).

I have a few philosophies behind these tools which I’ll share as well. First off, let’s set the stage with a real-world sample. Let’s say that you are a preparing a talk/lesson on the topic of fasting. Now there are hundreds of talks, quotes and resources on the subject but what if we keep things simple at first and simply look at the word itself; what does it mean? What did it mean? Where did it come from? Has the meaning changed over time and which meaning is more accurate?

Let’s begin: Read Full Post

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It’ll Never Work!

The reason that I think it is important to look at the faulty predictions of the past is because it tells us a lot about our present. What seems impossible today becomes fact tomorrow. Many people discount the Bible and Book of Mormon on lacking historical evidence in some points, and while there IS evidence, I believe people place way too much trust on scientists and so-called ‘experts’ in matters of their salvation.

I am not against science and scientific discovery. I believe that science, formulas, math and engineering are at the heart of all that God does, but I also believe that we are in our infancy in understanding the laws of the universe and what is and what is not possible.

The majority of the following information from this point on was pulled from here. There are a few extras thrown in there that I found in various places. Read Full Post

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