Atonement

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Talk: The Lord’s Sheep, Bread of Life, and Living Water

The following is a post created from a talk I gave in church this morning.

There is an idea in thermodynamics that everything in the universe eventually moves from order to disorder. The Book of Mormon is a window into how this happens in the lives of individuals and civilizations. Around 385 A.D., the bodies of tens of thousands of men, women, and children, lay strewn across the land as an entire nation went extinct save for a few.

Mormon, on of the last surviving leaders beheld this scene and cried out in anguish: “O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you! Behold, if ye had not done this, ye would not have fallen. But behold, ye are fallen, and I mourn your loss. O ye fair sons and daughters, ye fathers and mothers, ye husbands and wives, ye fair ones, how is it that ye could have fallen! But behold, ye are gone, and my sorrows cannot bring your return. (Mormon 6:17-20)

They had fallen, and they did so together, as one. Read Full Post

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Willing to give up

Joseph Smith once said:

“I am at all times willing to give up that which is wrong for I wish this people to have a virtuous leader.”

This quote has always been a source of personal motivation for me, especially when I adapt it slightly to reflect what I value most:

“I am at all times willing to give up that which is wrong for I wish my Parents to have a virtuous son.”

“I am at all times willing to give up that which is wrong for I wish my wife to have a virtuous husband.”

“I am at all times willing to give up that which is wrong for I wish my daughters to have a virtuous father.”

This phrase “willing to give up that which is wrong” is kind of intriguing to me. At first I thought it seemed as if it was too focused on the negative. If we are pursuing truth continually then why worry about the wrong stuff?Read Full Post

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Forgiveness

I really enjoyed this quote from George MacDonald about forgiveness:

“…unforgivingness to our neighbour; the shutting of him out from our mercies, from our love—so from the universe, as far as we are a portion of it—the murdering therefore of our neighbour. It may be an infinitely less evil to murder a man than to refuse to forgive him. The former may be the act of a moment of passion: the latter is the heart’s choice. It is spiritual murder, the worst, to hate, to brood over the feeling that excludes, that, in our microcosm, kills the image, the idea of the hated. We listen to the voice of our own hurt pride or hurt affection (only the latter without the suggestion of the former, thinketh no evil) to the injury of the evil-doer. In as far as we can, we quench the relations of life between us; we close up the passages of possible return. This is to shut out God, the Life, the One. For how are we to receive the forgiving presence while we shut out our brother from our portion of the universal forgiveness, the final restoration, thus refusing to let God be All in all? If God appeared to us, how could he say, “I forgive you,” while we remained unforgiving to our neighbour?” – MacDonald, George (2012-05-17). Unspoken Sermons Series I., II., and II. (Kindle Locations 569-576).

This reminds me of something a mentor of mine once said, “To deny forgiveness is to burn the bridge over which you too must pass.” I am confident that it was my offering unconditional forgiveness to one particular person who had hurt me that opened the world of God’s redemption and light into my life.

MacDonald insightfully points out that as we ourselves constitute a portion of this universe, by denying forgiveness in our little corner of it, we selfishly and impossibly attempt to place limitations on the infinite atonement. By doing so we make forgiveness for ourselves an impossibility, after all, Jesus himself said:

“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt 6:15 NIV)

When it comes to forgiveness, according to musician Matthew West, the prisoner that it really frees is you (song is available on Spotify and iTunes).

To truly forgive, one does not just cease their hatred, offense, or unkind feelings toward another, no, it must blossom into a true and genuine love toward the offender.

A passing-by of the offence might spring from a poor human kindness, but never from divine love. It would not be remission. Forgiveness can never be indifference. Forgiveness is love towards the unlovely. – MacDonald, George (2012-05-17). Unspoken Sermons Series I., II., and II. (Kindle Locations 534-536).

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Eyes to See

I love the story of Elisha and the servant when they were surrounded by the Aramean army.

Early the next morning, when the servant of the man of God arose and went out, he saw the force with its horses and chariots surrounding the city. “Alas!” he said to Elisha. “What shall we do, my lord?” Elisha answered, “Do not be afraid. Our side outnumbers theirs.” Then he prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes, that he may see.” And the Lord opened the eyes of the servant, and he saw that the mountainside was filled with fiery chariots and horses around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:15-17 NASB)

When we can know and see what God knows and sees, we can change. I believe that this is where true repentance leads. I think that we can have a twisted idea of what repentance really is. We think it is just feeling bad about something, saying we’re sorry, confessing if needed, and then trying hard to never do it again. The Bible dictionary defines repentance as:

The Greek word of which this is the translation denotes a change of mind, a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world.

The fruit of repentance is change; a deep, fundamental and complete change influenced by direct experience with God. You see things differently because you have beenRead Full Post

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The Course Which They Pursue

the-course

Of the seven Lectures on Faith, Lecture Sixth is perhaps my personal favorite. It is the only lecture that has this footnote:

This lecture is so plain, and the facts set forth so self-evident, that it is deemed unnecessary to form a catechism upon it: the student is therefore instructed to commit the whole to memory. (Emphasis Added)

So what are these facts that are so plain and self-evident and why are they important? In verse 7 we findRead Full Post

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The Greater and Lesser Arches

greater-lesser-arches

This week, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published a new gospel topic titled Becoming Like God. Personally, I thought they did a great job with this piece, hit all the right scripture verses, and explained the doctrine very well. Then, down in footnote 22, I found this fantastic observation:

In “The Place of Theosis in Orthodox Theology,” Andrew Louth describes Eastern Orthodoxy as focused on a “greater arch, leading from creation to deification” and feels that Catholic and Protestant theologies have focused on a partial “lesser arch, from Fall to redemption” to the exclusion of that whole (in Christensen and Wittung, Partakers of the Divine Nature, 35).

This observation fits so well with my recent studies concerning salvation vs. exaltation and how these to doctrines Read Full Post

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…And Say Unto You, ‘Receive the Mind of God’

mind-of-god

The Lectures on Faith is a fantastic addition to the doctrinal knowledge base of the Latter-day Saints. They were part of the Doctrine and Covenants for almost 100 years and were separated from the canon on the grounds that they were not specific revelations to the Church. It’s a complicated story that I’m going to have to address at another time.

What I’m going to be presenting is from the Fifth Lecture that contains teachings about the Godhead that may at first seem foreign to our traditional views as we have come to understand them. When we are seeking to learn eternal truths through the insufficient languages of man, we can often encounter things that puzzle us.

As inconvenient as this is, I believe that it plays an important role in our quest for truth. It causes us to question, to stretch our understanding and ponder deeply upon things. So let’s look into one of these teachings and see what profound truths that we can draw from it.

LINDSAY CYNGOT | Scroll Photography

LINDSAY CYNGOT | Scroll Photography

The mind of the Father and the Son

In Lecture Five we read:

“And he being the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, and having overcome, received a fullness of the glory of the Father – possessing the same mind with the Father; which mind is the Holy Spirit, that bears record of the Father and the Son;”

If you read this literally or within a different paradigm it will sound confusing to you. It almost sounds as if the Holy Spirit is nothing more than some kind of shared consciousness. It might seem that way, but I don’t believe that this is the right interpretation. First of all, in translating the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith would be well aware of what Nephi said when he conversed with the Holy Spirit in a vision:Read Full Post

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Repentance: a process of addition not subtraction

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I came across this post the other day that had some interesting perspectives on repentance. How many Saints are focused way too much on the “subtraction” aspect of the repentance process? How many are locked in guilt-laden cycles focused on ceasing behavior instead of receiving the power of grace?

“[Repentance] is a process of addition – not subtraction. It is a process of acquisition, not elimination…You repent by ceasing to try to lessen who you are and allowing [Christ] to increase who you are. In short, you repent by “losing yourself” and “finding yourself”.

From a blog titled: Things of my Soul by post author “Papa D” (some parenthesis removed)

I can testify that the principle of allowing Christ to increase you is true because I have experienced it. You are not saved merely by ceasing your iniquity; sin is sin and once committed, it condemns you without the mercy of Christ. Seeing as how we continue to sin all the days of our lives, we are continually at the mercy of the grace of Christ.

It is only by adding the atonement of Jesus Christ that salvation is found.

Thus all mankind were lost; and behold, they would have been endlessly lost were it not that God redeemed his people from their lost and fallen state. (Mosiah 16:4)

What do you think?

  • What is your perspective on the atonement of Christ?
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The Power of Doctrine

doctrines-principles-applications

In his book Increase in Learning, Elder Bednar teaches that principles arise from doctrines. If we take any principle of the gospel such as faith, repentance, obedience, etc and ask the question, “Why is this necessary?” the answer will always be found in doctrine.

Think about how you would answer the question, “Why is faith in Jesus Christ essential?”

Is the way you would answer based in doctrine? How would you answer that question in a way that focuses on the doctrine or doctrines that the principle is based on?

Let’s say, for example, that a few of the following doctrines come to mind when faith in Jesus Christ is pondered:

What scriptures or teachings of modern prophets help us to obtain a more complete understanding of these doctrines?

I had a mission president that once taught Read Full Post

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“Have You Been Saved?” by Dallin H. Oaks

By Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, May 1998

What do we say when someone asks us, “Have you been saved?” This question, so common in the conversation of some Christians, can be puzzling to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because it is not our usual way of speaking. We tend to speak of “saved” or “salvation” as a future event rather than something that has already been realized.

Good Christian people sometimes attach different meanings to some key gospel terms like saved or salvation. If we answer according to what our questioner probably means in asking if we have been “saved,” our answer must be “yes.” If we answer according to the various meanings we attach to the terms saved or salvation, our answer will be either “yes” or “yes, but with conditions.”

I.

As I understand what is meant by the good Christians who speak in these terms, we are “saved” when we sincerely declare or confess that we have accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. This meaning relies on words the Apostle Paul taught the Christians of his day:

“If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:9–10).

To Latter-day Saints, the words saved and salvation in this teaching signify a present covenant relationship with Jesus Christ in which we are assured salvation from the consequences of sin if we are obedient. Every sincere Latter-day Saint is “saved” according to this meaning. We have been converted to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, we have experienced Read Full Post

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What Does “Saved by Grace After All We Can Do” Mean?

I’d like to thank my good friend Mike King for being the catalyst that inspired this article. The Bible verses are all from the New American Standard Version just for kicks, thanks, Andrew T. 

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There’s a verse in the Book of Mormon that I have seen get plenty of criticism from some who think that the verse teaches some kind of “works-based salvation” that diminishes the role of Christ’s grace.

On the other hand, however, I’ve seen Latter-day Saints misunderstand this verse as well. Read the following verse and ponder what you think it is getting at:

“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23)

At first glance, it might seem like this verse is saying that our efforts actually make up a portion of our salvation. That us “doing things” makes up the first part of our salvation and that Jesus Christ’s atonement kicks in to cover whatever is left over. That is just one way that it can be interpreted, but there’s a glaring problem with that interpretation Read Full Post

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Thoughts on the Five Core Sacramental Symbols

There are at least five core elements that are used in the ordinance of the sacrament. Back on June 16th of this year I took down some ideas in my notebook concerning them so here they are. I will also be placing any number that I think is numerically significant next to the title.

1. Altar or Table (4, 1, 2)

  • Used for sacrifices and offerings and for sacred ordinances of the gospel (LDS BD). A place where heaven and earth are bridged via covenants.
  • Altar: Zabach (Hebrew) – “to slaughter an animal”.
  • The life of the animal is represented by its blood. (Leviticus 17:11)
  • Altars are temples in their most simple form, and the covenants made at them can vary.
  • We place things on the altar to be completely consumed, we do not expect to see them again. It is expected that all ungodliness is treated this way.Read Full Post
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Saved by Grace, Judged by Works?

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I was thinking about the whole grace/faith/works debate that seems to endlessly rage between the faiths.

Now we all technically believe in salvation by grace, or in other words, salvation is impossible without grace through the atonement of Jesus Christ. The disagreement seems mainly around how that grace is applied and what man’s role, if any, is in this process of salvation. All sides of the debate would probably agree that some kind of an acknowledgement of Christ’s atonement and grace on behalf of the individual is necessary in order to receive it, but at what point is one “saved”?

What frustrates me is how people on all sides of the debate seem to Read Full Post

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Nephi’s Psalm, a Life Preserver to Drowning Souls

The following is taken from 2 Nephi 4:16-35, with some headings that I inserted to identify four key steps of transformation and if I were as awesome as President Monson I’m sure I could make them rhyme somehow ;)

Hands-Drowning-Sea

Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard.

It is easy to find fault in yourself and become overwhelmed

Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.Read Full Post

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“The Gospel” by Elder John M. Madsen

My dad contacted me today about a quote that mentioned something about the atonement not being a part of the gospel but the gospel itself. I Googled the phrase and found this talk by Elder Madsen.

Now I had first heard this quote from Elder Madsen himself when he came to a zone conference while I was in the mission field and gave a sermon very similar to this one. I remember being very impacted by his words and took a ton of notes! I’m glad that there is a version of this online so here it is!

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“The Gospel” by Elder John M. Madsen

Listen to the Audio

It is a sacred privilege for Sister Madsen and me to join with you for a devotional on this beautiful campus, crowned with a holy temple, and to be in this magnificent hall, so recently dedicated to the Lord for His purposes. Especially, in light of His words recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 6:32, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, as I said unto my disciples, where two or three are gathered together in my name, …  behold, there will I be in the midst of them–even so am I in the midst of you.”

I am humbled and honored to be invited to address you, because I know something of who you are and what lies ahead of you! I know this through the words of living prophets. President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “Our young people are … the nobility of heaven, a choice and chosen generation who have a divine destiny.”1Read Full Post

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He Lives and Loves

There are a lot of things that I believe are true and a lot of things that I do not believe are true.

There are also things that I “know” are true like the existence of the city of Jerusalem. I’ve never been there, but I’ve seen pictures and know of others who have been there, so in that respect, I “know” it exists.

Then, there are things that I know, not because anyone told me or because I read about them or saw them in photos or video; I know because of first-hand, personal experience. The sun in the sky, the thoughts of my mind and heart, the ground beneath my feet, the voices of my children and the wonderful taste of a cool glass of orange juice on a summer day – these things I know.

I also know the pure love of Jesus Christ.

So can you (Alma 33).

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Video: The Purifying Power of Gethsemane

Yes! I’m glad that someone has finally uploaded to YouTube a decent version of Bruce R. McConkie’s last testimony in General Conference. I don’t quite know the full story behind this talk, but I do know that he did, in fact, pass away just a few days after giving it. I have heard that he was so ill that he wasn’t even supposed to be able to appear at this conference, let alone give a 15 minute talk.

Elder McConkie is an interesting and controversial figure. I feel shades of Brigham Young in his writings; they both spake very absolutely about what they believed even though they got some things wrong. Since I don’t expect perfection from mortal men, I don’t condemn for their errors and admire point at which they tried to correct them. Thankfully the Spirit is a guard against error and a protection against being led down an incorrect path. I think that’s part of the challenge in belonging to a church run by imperfect, though inspired, men.

I think their contributions and efforts far outweigh their imperfections. Brigham Young was born to colonize and lead, there’s no doubt about that, and Elder McConkie was a relentless force always seeking to serve the Lord and testify of Christ.

As I watch his final testimony, knowing that he knew it would be his last, I admire his courage and dedication and think that his reunion on the other side was probably exactly as he envisioned it.

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His Grace Is Sufficient

brad-wilcoxBrad Wilcox was serving as a member of the Sunday School General Board of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well as a BYU associate professor in the Department of Teacher Education in the David O. McKay School of Education when this devotional address was given on 12 July 2011.

I am grateful to be here with my wife, Debi, and my two youngest children—who are currently attending BYU—and several other family members who have come to be with us.

It is an honor to be invited to speak to you today. Several years ago I received an invitation to speak at Women’s Conference. When I told my wife, she asked, “What have they asked you to speak on?”

I was so excited that I got my words mixed up and said, “They want me to speak about changing strengths into weaknesses.”

She thought for a minute and said, “Well, they’ve got the right man for the job!”

She’s correct about that. I could give a whale of a talk on that subject, but I think today I had better go back to the original topic and speak about changing weaknesses into strengths and about how the grace of Jesus Christ is sufficient (see Ether 12:27, D&C 17:8, 2 Corinthians 12:9)—sufficient to cover us, sufficient to transform us, and sufficient to help us as long as that transformation process takes.Read Full Post

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How Cockroaches Taught Me About the Atonement

To some of you, this article might just be the most disgusting parable that you’ve ever read, but please, bear with me.

When I was a teenager, I volunteered to sit at a booth for our city zoo at a scout show. I’ve always loved animals and it’s a good thing too because during this event, I was holding a black and white checkered tegu lizard, had about three giant hissing cockroaches climbing on me and a big black scorpion in my armpit, I guess it liked the warm and cozy environment.

As I sat tending to the various critters crawling all over me, I noticed something odd going on in a small container that had two different cockroach species in it (I know, we had a lot of cockroaches). One of the roaches was beginning to molt, and in a brownish environment surrounded by other brown roaches, the bright white roach emerging from its old skin caught my eye.

He struggled quite a bit to get out of that old, hardened skin of his. I took note of how vulnerable he looked and was amazed at how white he was; I had never seen a white cockroach before. At the same time this one roach was molting, I noticed that another roach started acting strange – it was giving birth – live birth! I didn’t even know that roaches did that. A cylinder of white emerged and then broke apart as these tiny white baby roaches began to scurry all over the place.

What struck me is how the big roach and the baby roaches were both this pure white color. I thought of how when we are born, we are pure and innocent but after being exposed to the world, a hardened exoskeleton of sin eventually envelops us. However, like the adult roach, we can shed that exoskeleton of sin and become pure and clean once more.

There are a number of lessons to be learned from the humble cockroach it seems. The prophet Alma testified that “all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it…do witness that there is a Supreme Creator” (Alma 30:44). I guess he was right.

Maybe you’ll think twice before squashing another roach ;)

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Churches, Terms, Covenants and Joy

Churches

In the battle of churches, everyone is promoting their church as the gate that stands between you and your salvation. Other say that you don’t need a church, you can just go to God himself. There are many other ideologies as well, so what is true and how can you know it?

Terms

I can only speak from my own experience on this and I’ll leave others to speak from theirs. One way I look at the message that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers is in the context of “terms”. By “terms” I mean a state of agreement, a concord, a mutual relationship between man and God. The purpose of the church is to expound the terms of certain conditions pertaining to this life and the hereafter.

Covenants and Joy

“Men are that they might have joy” (2 Ne. 2:25) taught the prophet Lehi, and God desires us to have this joy now and forever. However, I think it is self-evident that outside of God’s covenants, people find great joy because joy can be found whenever true principles are lived. The birth of a child, the achievement of goals or learning something new can fill us with a lasting joy.

So how it this joy found through covenants? Do covenants imply a course of action or a pathway through life? How is joy obtained through this particular path?

Perhaps the only way to know is to walk the path ourselves.

What if we have walked the path but we find ourselves depressed, frustrated, laden with guilt, worried, fearful, angry and overcome with life around us? Where is the joy that God has promised us? What does God mean by “joy”?

In the verse “Men are that they might have joy”, maybe the word “might” can teach us something. Might can mean “may or may not” but it can also mean “strength or power”. What strength or power is being conveyed and where does this strength originate? Joy seems to be a conditional principle, but then again, so are covenants.

If we find ourselves joyless, perhaps we should examine why that is and what we are basing our joy in. Maybe the path to joy requires us to become something different by making it through and rising above things that are the antithesis of joy. Maybe a complete joy as promised by God through his covenants can only be known this way. Maybe the way is personalized to each of us and our own situations.

Consider Jesus Christ; was he joyful there, hanging from a cross, freshly beaten and abused, bleeding, with metal spikes driven through his hands, wrists and feet? What does that say about him? What does that say about us? What does that say about joy?

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