This is a talk I gave today (July 21, 2019) in my ward.
Being a member of the Church in the 1800s had its perks; there were revelations and miracles, but it also involved people mobbing you and setting your stuff on fire.
How about building a city out of a snake and mosquito-infested swamp? Next, there was the whole leaving the United States and going on a horrible family road trip for hundreds of miles across an incredibly boring landscape.
After that long journey, they came to the mountains. Now they had to climb way up there with all their stuff and build another city at the top. They kept going and built more cities, hundreds of them; these were hardcore people.
Fast-forward 170 years or so.Read Full Post
Can you have truth without sacrifice?
Can you have empathy without sacrifice?
Can you have happiness without sacrifice?
Can you have love without sacrifice?
If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire.
If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.Matthew 18:8-9 NASB
This week we have been studying Matthew 18 in Come Follow Me and I have had a few discussions with family members about these verses and the weight of the implications that Christ is getting at here are very challenging.
Imagine for a moment cutting off your own hand or foot; imagine plucking out one of your eyes. Can you imagine the pain and the horror? Think of how losing a key part of your body will affect the rest of your life.Read Full Post
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
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?
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?
The symbol of a mountain is a common archetype in religious traditions and is it any wonder? Their everlasting stability, their untouchable heights and the way the light paints them in quiet mornings and sets them afire in evenings have always inspired man.
Within the LDS faith, the mountain has a special meaning. I suppose that one of the most immediate correlations would probably be to the temples.
The same way that the Lord’s voice can be heard through scripture, he speaks to us through number, shape, color, light and movement in nature, in temples, in our dreams and visions and in many other circumstances. Everything in our perception can teach us if we have ears to hear, eyes to see, hands to touch and a heart that yearns for virtue.
The mountain; it is a striking visual symbol encompassing many ideas, sermons and truths. Perhaps the mountain peak represents the final destination of man or the ultimate height one can achieve with only God as a way to ascend higher. What I find especially fascinating isn’t the mountain itself, but the climb.
The climb teaches us, it requires strength and in turn makes us strong, it is brutal, unforgiving and perilous.
It seems safer to stay at the bottom, but is it? What if the point of life isn’t to make it safely to death? What if we spend our lives dragging our way to the top but never make it? What is at the top? Is reaching the top of the mountain really even necessary if the point is the climb?
Perhaps the climb begins with covenants. Under covenant, life and every experience of every moment are another rock, another precipice, another dreadful cliff, treacherous winds and a host of spectacular terrain.
Everything becomes the climb; what you do right after you wake up, how you treat your family, friends and enemies, what you do and think when you are alone, how you apply your talents, how you deal with fear, how you handle knowledge and what your attitude is concerning the things you encounter.
The climb; you will either discover what awaits you or you will spend eternity contemplating two words, “what if”.
Will you climb the rock
Or wait at the bottom for a free ride up
Will you look to the top
And wonder what it would be like
Or will you stand up and climb?
– (Lyrics from the song “Lemonade” by U-turn)
In Denver Snuffer’s book, “Passing the Heavenly Gift”, he provides a great summary on the meaning of the temple and its ordinances.
The temple ordinances portray a walk back to God’s presence. Although the ceremonies are presented in symbols, they testify of, and invite the actual return to Him. The washings, intended to cleans us, are more than a physical ordinance. They testify to us about necessary individual purity and spiritual cleanliness. Anointing with olive oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit. Thorough the Holy Spirit we are sanctified. It is holy, and when we receive it we become holy through our association with it.
When we are clothed with a garment, it symbolizes the sacrifice of Christ, laying down His body to cover our sins with His atonement. These are powerful symbols of how intimately our individual redemption is connected to Him.
The endowment instructs us about creation, and our own journey through mortal life. We must consider ourselves as if we are respectively, Adam and Eve. When we do, we find an explanation of our mortal condition. It tells us we came from God’s presence, and now live in a fallen world. To regain God’s presence we need to obey, make sacrifices, follow Christ’s Gospel, observe the law of chastity and consecrate our lives to Him. As we do, we will receive sacred knowledge from His messengers. Such messengers are sent by Him.
Men will try and mislead us with false teachings that mingle the philosophies of men with scripture. But if we remain true and faithful to whatever light we receive from Him, He will always send more. Messengers will come from the presence of God, bringing His message. They will not offer themselves for worship, adoration or respect…
True messengers labor to have you come to know Christ. They want all to be redeemed from the fall.
The purpose of the temple is to guide you back to Him. It is not the real thing, but only a symbol pointing to the real thing. It is not enough to read what has been written in scripture or taught by true messengers. You must get an experience for yourself so you also know God.
The real thing is found when the veil parts and you gaze into heaven. (p. 466-467)
The idea that the temple “…is not the real thing, but only a symbolRead Full Post
by 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
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:
- a great or complete devastation or destruction, esp. by fire.
- a sacrifice completely consumed by fire; burnt offering.
- (usually initial capital letter) the systematic massslaughter of European Jews in Nazi concentration campsduring World War II (usually prec. by the ).
- any mass slaughter or reckless destruction of life.
Sounds pretty much like what we would have expected to find inRead Full Post
The Hebrew word covenant as we read in the Old Testament is: briyth (ber-eeth)
- to cut
- ‘from ‘barah’ (1262) (in the sense of cutting (like ‘bara” (1254);
- a compact (made by passing between pieces of flesh)
Let’s explore some instances from scripture where we have something being cut or divided and then a passing between the parts.
Dividing in creation
In the Creation the following things are divided:
- Light from the darkness.
- Waters from the waters.
- Water from the earth.
- Plants from the earth.
- Day from night.
- Animals from the sea and land.
- Woman from man.
- Man and woman from Eden/God.
- Sacrifice instituted.
The Red Sea
21 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
22 And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.Read Full Post