New Testament

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Critical Principles for Vetting Revelation and Avoiding Deception

We talk a lot about receiving and following revelation, but I’ve learned in my experience that the process itself is not as simple at it may first seem. There are real dangers involved because not all revelation that crosses our path comes from God.

The word revelation in Greek is apokalupsis and means “disclosure:–appearing, coming, lighten, manifestation.” The English word revelation comes to us from the French revelare around the 1300s and means to “unveil, uncover, lay bare.” [1] In its plainest sense, when revelation is happening, we are basically seeing something that was unseen before.

The trick is determining what exactly we are looking at, its source, and what we should do with it, if anything. If we simply swallow any new information without vetting it first, we are going to have potentially disastrous problems.Read Full Post

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Spices, Gnats, and Camels

Zeal isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I think it tends to amplify our actions whether they are misguided or on point. Sometimes we can focus too much on the letter that we miss the spirit, or the weightier matters. Those are some the lessons reflected on in this great video from the Messages of Christ YouTube Channel.

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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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Faithful Co-existence With Gamaliel’s Counsel

We live in a world with billions of people and each one of us has ideas on how things should be. Whether it is how governments should operate to where the family should eat for dinner, we all have different ideas. When it comes to religion, things can get very contentious even to the point of violence.

If you have found your place within a religious tradition that claims to have been influenced or even initiated by deity you probably feel that you are in the right on many things. Where we have a reality that involves many people and groups claiming to be God’s people and doing his work, we also see the need for at least tolerating each other’s presence as a start.

Once we’ve done that, how do we then move forward? How do we interact with people who contend with us, or those that were once united with us and then depart? What about those that are among us thatRead Full Post

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The Parable of the Two Debtors

Jesus once told a parable about two debtors. The first debtor owed the king 10,000 talents, but when the time came to pay up, he didn’t have the ability to. The king commanded that this debtor’s whole family and property were to be sold to pay the debt. But when the servant pleaded for more time to pay, the king had compassion and forgave the entire debt. Nice king.

A little later, this same debtor went out to find a man who owed him money. He took him by the throat and demanded payment for the 100 pence he was owed. This man begged for more time to pay but was instead thrown into prison.

Well the king found out about all this and wasn’t too happy, he delivered this debtor over to “tormenters” until he was able to pay everything he owed.

How much?

So that’s the story, but it doesn’t really hit home unless you have an idea of what kinds of monetary sums we are dealing with here.

The second debtor owed the first one 100 pence. Back then, 1 pence was about a day’s wage or roughly $180 in today’s dollarsRead Full Post

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Why Are Some Sacred Accounts Remembered Differently?

Alma the younger had an incredible conversion experience that has parallels to Saul of Tarsus’ conversion in a couple of interesting ways. Both involved a heavenly messenger appearing while they were traveling about, and they both told slightly different versions of their stories at a later time. I compare this to my own personal experiences and Joseph Smith’s various first vision accounts.

Saul’s Encounter

Saul’s experience was first told this way:

And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. (Acts 9:4-8)

Later, when he is recounting his experience to King Agrippa there are some slight differences:

And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. (Acts 22:6-10)

Both accounts start out almost exactly the same but the second account adds “of Nazareth” to Jesus’ quote and excludes Read Full Post

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Surviving the Void

It’s happened to me several times, in fact, the first 17 years of my life were lived without any real sense of the presence of God; at least that was my perception at the time.

Time went on, and God did manifest himself to me many times and in many ways. Some of these experiences were subtle and sublime, while others sound like something you’d read about in the scriptures. But then something unexpected happens…

void

Life was at times like a sailboat on a vast ocean, the wind filled my sails and pushed me forward with purpose and vision. Then, for no apparent reason, the wind ceases and there is a perfect calm. Often it isn’t this sudden, the winds fade slowly, almost imperceptibly, until the profound stillness dominates the scene.

I’ve noticed that God appears to leave me alone at certain points in my life. Alone to the degree that there seems to be nothing I can do to bridge the gap and I find myself in a void. Prayers feel unheard and questions begin to enter the mind. What happened, where did he go? Did I offend him in some way, is there something I’m doing wrong? I tend to look inward during these times and take an inventory of my life.

While such a practice can be healthy, it can also turn to doubt, fear, confusion, disaffection, anger, and apostasy. I think that it is common for many to reach this state of windless waters and abandon ship thinking all is lost.

Like I said, I didn’t always know there was a God, but I do now. Yet I’ve felt a little hurt at times where I’ve been in these situations where I’ve felt like I needed answers and the heavens were quiet. I know that the heavens must hear me, but I don’t know why there is no perceptible reply.

The Why

What I’ve wanted to know is “why,” why this abandonment? I’ve been in this most recent void for a while now, surviving on rations of remembrance and continuing my pursuit of faith through exploration and just living life.

It is through that continued exploration that I think I found my answer. A thought hit me while ponderingRead Full Post

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“Who has known the Mind of the Lord?”

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1 Corinthians 2:9-16

But as it is written:

“What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,
and what has not entered the human heart,
what God has prepared for those who love him,”

this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.

For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God. Among human beings, who knows what pertains to a person except the spirit of the person that is within? Similarly, no one knows what pertains to God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the things freely given us by God. And we speak about them not with words taught by human wisdom, but with words taught by the Spirit, describing spiritual realities in spiritual terms.

Now the natural person does not accept what pertains to the Spirit of God, for to him it is foolishness, and he cannot understand it, because it is judged spiritually. The spiritual person, however, can judge everything but is not subject to judgment by anyone.

For “who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to counsel him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

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WWJD? or WITWJ?

We all are familiar with the acronym that poses the thoughtful question “What Would Jesus Do?”

But in pondering Matthew 25:37-40, another question came to mind, “What if They Were Jesus?”

In certain situations, it is certainly profitable to wonder what actions might be taken by the Savior if he were in your shoes.

But there is a profoundly different feeling when you look at any person and wonder how you might treat them in that moment if they were, in fact, Jesus. After a while, maybe we could learn that people have value regardless of who we try to project onto them.

We might consider that every person was once a small, perfect baby that some joyful mother looked upon with hope and love. Nobody ever looks into the eyes of a smiling baby and sees a homeless man, or some jerk neighbor or the weird quiet guy who sits in the back row at church; but that is who we see.

What if we learned to see differently? What if we learned to see that original light of purity in all souls and could help bring it back to the surface with something as simple as kindness?

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John the Baptist: Locusts and Honey, Chaos and Blessing

A friend of mine was interested in the symbolism of the beehive and bees so I sent him this article.

We were talking about John the Baptist and how he ate locusts and honey and what that might have meant. Then some lights started going on and I thought of something I hadn’t considered before. I haven’t thought this whole thing through yet, but here are some of my initial ideas.

Throughout the scriptures, we see teaching through contrast and complimentary opposition. Themes of chaos/disorder/cursings are juxtaposed with themes of creation/order/blessings. For an example, look up the word “otherwise” as it is used in the Book of Mormon. That’s a great keyword to see where these contrasting themes are presented, here are a few examples:Read Full Post

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Building Upon the Rock of Christ in a Whirlwind

“And he hath power given unto him from the Father to redeem them from their sins because of repentance; therefore he hath sent his angels to declare the tidings of the conditions of repentance,which bringeth unto the power of the Redeemer, unto the salvation of their souls.

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. (Helaman 5:11-12, emphasis added)

I’ve heard this scripture about a billion times and I’m not complaining, it’s a great one, but sometimes we can tend to overlook the value of things that we are too familiar with.

The phrase “shafts in the whirlwind” always made me think of tornadoes, but having a shaft inside of a whirlwind didn’t Read Full Post

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Leaven

kingdom-leaven

The dominion of God’s people upon the earth seems to have been numerically small throughout most of history.

I’ve often heard people question why that is. Of the billions that have lived, very little have had access to God’s commandments in their purity (as we understand them) and even His own people have gone through cycles of apostasy and rebellion. Shouldn’t the world be filled with billions of believers with cities and nations of Zion everywhere, or at least ONE Zion somewhere? Instead we see a history of war, violence, suffering, poverty, disease, tyranny and oppression with tiny pockets of enlightenment or restoration here and there.

Is God inefficient or is something else going on?Read Full Post

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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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The Tomb and the Grove

the-tomb-and-the-grove

The Tomb

In the what is today the first book of the New Testament we have an interesting account at the very end of Matthew. Here, it appears that Matthew is attempting to debunk an anti-Christian rumor that was going around concerning the resurrection of Christ.

Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day. (Matthew 28:11-15)

According to Matthew a common explanation for the missing body of Christ was attributed to fraud committed by his followers.

Is it really that far of a stretch to believe that among Jesus’ closest confidants and hundreds of followers that someone might have stolen his body in an attempt to somehow “prove” the resurrection? Or that the remaining apostles could have fabricated the story of the resurrection in order to keep the movement going and save face? Isn’t this the simplest explanation if you don’t accept the reality of miracles or the existence of God?

In the case of the Latter-day Saint claim that God restored his Church to the earth, a skeptic might ask 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. 

jesus-and-john-the-baptist

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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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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The size of your faith is not the issue…

“The size of your faith or the degree of your knowledge is not the issue—it is the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do have and the truth you already know.” (Lord, I Believe, April 2013 General Conference)

What a great line from Jeffery Holland! I have often erroneously thought to myself, “I can’t wait until I have greater faith so that I can do greater things!”

Maybe this is what the Lord meant when speaking of faith as small as a grain of mustard seed (Matthew 17:20). It isn’t the size of the faith but the degree of integrity toward your current faith where all sufficient power is found.

Mustard-Seed-Faith-by-CRI

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Acts 10:38

Healing of the Blind Man, Buoninsegna

Healing of the Blind Man, Buoninsegna

“…how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” (Acts 10:38)

I love this verse on many levels. We learn that God was with Jesus and “anointed” him with the Holy Spirit and with power. There are two simple things that Jesus is described as doing:

  1. Going about doing good
  2. Healing those oppressed by the devil

As Latter-day disciples of Jesus, what should this say about our core purpose in daily life? What if we simply focused on just doing good and healing where possible?

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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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VIDEO: Mormonism and the Temple: Examining an Ancient Religious Tradition – UPDATED: Jan 23, 2013

The following is taken straight from TempleStudy.com, thanks Bryce for putting these videos together in one place.

The conference “Mormonism and the Temple: Examining an Ancient Religious Tradition,” which took place on October 29, 2012 in Logan, Utah, was filmed, and some of the videos are now available for free in 1080p HD resolution on the Academy for Temple Studies YouTube channel, the Academy’s TempleStudies.org website, as well as embedded below here. The rest of the presenters’ videos are forthcoming.

***Four new videos added Jan 23, 2013: 

  • Laurence Hemming – “Chapel, Church, Temple, Cathedral: Lost Parallels”
  • John Hall – “Ancient Mediterranean Temple Ceremonies”
  • Le Grande Davies – “Temples—Bridges of Eternity”
  • John L. Fowles – “The Temple, The Book of Revelation, and Joseph Smith”

Introduction – Gary N. Anderson & Philip Barlow

Panel Discussion – “Introduction to Temple Studies”

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