Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Golden Rule

Matt. 7:12
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

When I was living in China, I often frequented the stalls along the roadside. One day as I was looking at the different goods in the shops along the street, I found a winter scarf that I thought would look nice with my coat. I told the seller that I would like to purchase it and I handed him the money. When he handed me back my change, he inadvertently handed me a 100 yuan bill instead of a 10. I pointed out his mistake and handed him back the 100 bill. He thanked me profusely. With the exchange rate at that time, 100 yuan was not that much money to me, but it was to him. As I was getting ready to leave, he taught me a Chinese saying: "Chang hsin, bi hsin." This isn't the best translation, but you could think of it as saying, "If you give of your heart, others will compete". I think this is much like the Golden rule which tells us, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". How wonderful this world would be if all men practiced this simple law that Jesus taught.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Healing Power of Christ: Sculpture Exhibit by Angela Johnson

Today I went to a special sculpture exhibit by the artist Angela Johnson. You can view her work here. Just click on galleries and you can view some of her sculptures. She tells an amazing story about how God helped her go from a career as an opera singer, to find this talent within herself.

For a limited time, her sculptures will be on display at the Oakland Temple visitor's center. Tours are available, which include a short video introducing the artist. They will be on display from now until January 1, 2009. I hope that you will take the time to stop and see them if you are in Oakland.

I thought that the sculptures would be nice to see, but I wasn't prepared for the impact they would have on me seeing them in person. As I thought about each scripture story they depicted, and saw the expressions on the faces, I was once again reminded of the love of our Savior. If you want a spiritual experience, you will find it in these tours.

Also on display is a large and beautiful Christus statue, as well as other art and media presentations. There are many video presentations available as well. While you are there, you should take the opportunity to walk among the temple gardens and even up on to the temple terrace to view the bay. I hope that you will make the time to see this extraordinary exhibit while it is still on display in Oakland.

The Visitor's center is open every day 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Admission and parking are free. The address is: 4780 Lincoln Avenue, Oakland. Take Highway 13 to Lincoln Avenue. For more information you can call 510-531-1475.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Book of Mormon Sampler Sept. 23, 2008

Ether 12:27

27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

Benefits of the Book of Mormon Part 1

Recently I posted about the things that the Book of Mormon has to add to the plan of salvation that cannot be found in the Bible. I decided that I would like to make several posts to talk about these things individually.

In old Testament Times, there was a law by which the people governed their affairs. this law is found in the book of Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy 19:15
15 ¶ One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.
The principle behind this law was that there must be 2 or 3 witnesses to a thing before the matter could be established. We also find this teaching elsewhere in the bible:
Matt. 18:16
But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
1 Cor. 13:1
This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.
Heb. 10:28
He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses.

The Book of Mormon fulfills this law, by acting as a second witness to the Bible that Jesus is the Christ.
In the Old Testament we find a very interesting scripture:

Ezekiel 37: 16,19,20
16 Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions:
19 Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand.
20 ¶ And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes

What are these "sticks" spoken of? They are the records, or scriptures. If you think about the scrolls that were used long ago, this scripture makes more sense. One of these "sticks" or records was to be written for Judah and the children of Israel. One of these records was for the tribe of Joseph and his house. The Bible is the record of Judah, and the tribes of Israel. The Book of Mormon is the record of a people who were from the tribe of Joseph, but ultimately were also from the tribes of Israel. Together, if we take these two records in our hands together, we have two testimonies that Jesus is the Christ. They become one in our hand, not just physically, but they become one in purpose to testify of the Savior.

Jesus said, " 14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." John 10:14-16

Who were these "other sheep" that Jesus spoke of? When the Savior visited the Americas, He explained who these "other sheep" were. In the Book of Mormon we read,

"This much did the Father command me, that I should tell unto them

That other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

And verily I say unto you, that ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." 3 Nephi 15:16,17, 21

By bringing His Gospel to the people of the Americas, Christ made His fold to be one fold with one shepherd.

The title page of the Book of Mormon says that one of the purposes of the Book of Mormon is for , "the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations." It stands today along side the Bible as a witness of Jesus Christ. It is the record of the "other sheep" spoken of in the Bible. I hope that you will take the opportunity to read the Book of Mormon and listen to the witness that it has to offer.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Our Life After Death

Many people through the ages have questioned what happens when we die. The Bible gives us some information, and modern scripture/ revelation also answer some of these questions. Death is but the next step in our eternal progression.

When we die, our spirits and bodies separate. Our bodies are buried in the Earth, and our spirits go to the "Spirit World". I like to think of it this way: Just as our physical bodies harbor a spirit, our physical earth also has a spirit. This spirit is what is known as the "spirit world". In the book of Moses we learn, ",,,For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth...." Moses 3:5

The Spirit World is divided up in to two parts. The first part is what is known as "Paradise", and the second is what is known as "Spirit Prison". In the Book of Mormon, the Prophet Alma wrote, "11 Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.
12 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow. " Alma 40:11, 12
If you remember, Jesus also spoke of Paradise when he was on the cross. He spoke of it to the two thieves who were hung next to him. One of the thieves spoke, "42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise." Luke 23: 42, 43.
Alma the prophet goes on to tell us about spirit prison. In verses 13-14 of chapter 40 said,
"13 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil—for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house—and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil.
14 Now this is the state of the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection."
Isaiah the prophet also spoke of this spirit prison: "1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; " Isaiah 61:1 In addition, in 1 Peter 3:18,19 we read, "18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;"
While in the spirit world, we await the resurrection. At the time of the resurrection, all who were born to this earth will be resurrected. The resurrected body will be perfect and immortal, meaning it will never die again. This resurrection was brought about by Jesus Christ.
Before the resurrection, Jesus Christ will return to the earth to rule. This 1000 year period is known as the "Millenium". This is what is referred to as Jesus' "Second Coming". One of the reasons that the Jews could not believe that Jesus was the Christ is that they believed He would come in glory, and not be born in a stable. Jesus will come in glory, but it will be the second time he has come. During that 1000 years, Satan and his angels will be bound. At the end of the 1000 year period, they will be loosed, and the final battle will take place. After this battle, Satan and his hosts will be cast in to outer darkness.
Next will come the final judgement day. You might think of this as a sort of "report card" to see how we fared in this test of life. "12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." Revelations 20:12 Note that this scripture does not say that we are judged by our faith, but by our works. Why is faith not enough? Because faith, without works, isn't true faith. If a person believes, but then doesn't that true faith? Works are the cullmination of our faith. The only works that we will not be judged by are those of which we have repented. "42 Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more." Doctrine and Covenants 59:42
Here in this lesson is where our church diverges from others. Most other churches believe that after the judgment we either go to Heaven or Hell. While that is true, we believe there are several degrees of heaven. 1 Cor 15:40,41 says, "40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.
We believe that there are three heavens. The Celestial kingdom is the highest, and it's glory can be likened to the glory of the sun. The Terrestrial kingdom is the middle heaven, and its glory can be likened to the glory of the moon. The Telestial kingdom is the lower heaven, and its glory can be likened to the glory of the stars. Just as the sun, moon, and stars differ in brightness, so too, these heavens differ in glory. If we were to judge all mankind by a "Heaven or hell" standard, there would be some who are not really good enough for heaven, and not really bad enough for hell. To which would they go? But with three degrees of heaven, we can be assigned to the place of whose glory we have made ourselves worthy. Those who attain the highest degree of heaven will be those who will dwell with God, and who will continue to have eternal progression.
I could write a book on the subject of our lives after death, but I fear that I would weary my readers. I have only lightly mentioned many of our beliefs, and have not included scriptural references to some because I didn't want to make this post even longer. I hope that if you have any specific questions, that you will ask me. I will do my best to answer. But I bear my witness to you that these things I have spoken of are true, and that if you study them out in your mind, and ask God, He will make the truth of them known unto you.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Book of Mormon Sampler Sept. 18,2008

ALMA 34:9-14

9 For it is expedient that an atonement should be made; for according to the great plan of the Eternal God there must be an atonement made, or else all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made.
10 For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice.
11 Now there is not any man that can sacrifice his own blood which will atone for the sins of another. Now, if a man murdereth, behold will our law, which is just, take the life of his brother? I say unto you, Nay.
12 But the law requireth the life of him who hath murdered; therefore there can be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world.
13 Therefore, it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice, and then shall there be, or it is expedient there should be, a stop to the shedding of blood; then shall the law of Moses be fulfilled; yea, it shall be all fulfilled, every jot and tittle, and none shall have passed away.
14 And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Christ in America

Click here to watch a special video, "Christ in America". This explains more about how the Book of Mormon and Bible both testify of Jesus Christ.

Baptism for the Dead

1 Cor. 15:29
29 Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

A friend brought to my attention an article that was published in a Belfast, Ireland newspaper regarding our church's practice of baptism for the dead. Evidently, some religions disapprove of our practice of baptizing, by proxy, our deceased ancestors who may have previously been baptized in another religion. Here is the link to the article, which is titled, "Eamonn McCann: What if Mormons are right and Catholics and Protestants wrong?"

I think the author of this article made some very good points. One point that he didn't make, that I would like to emphasize, is that we have free agency, even in the hereafter. Even though we may do baptisms for our ancestors who have passed before us, they still have the freedom to accept or reject that ordinance.

I will discuss this practice in a future post when I explain our views about our post-mortal life.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Our Earth Life

In a previous post I talked about our premortal life. In this post I would like to focus on our mortal existence. This earth life is but a continuance of our life before.

One of the important aspects of our coming to this Earth was the chance to get a physical body. When we were only spirits, there were many things we couldn't learn and do. In addition, our Heavenly Father has a glorified physical body, and in order for us to become more like Him, we needed a physical body too.

In the last post, I recounted the Grand council in heaven. Those who chose to follow the Father's plan were allowed to come to this earth and receive a physical body. Those who chose to follow Satan were cast out of heaven, and will never have the chance to obtain a physical body. The scriptures give us an insight to the desire of these evil spirits to have a physical body.

Luke 8:27-33
27 And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.
28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not.
29 (For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.)
30 And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him.
31 And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep.
32 And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them.
33 Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, "We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the celestial kingdom. The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The devil has no body, and herein is his punishment. He is pleased when he can obtain the tabernacle of man, and when cast out by the Savior he asked to go into the herd of swine, showing that he would prefer a swine's body to having none. All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not." (Chapter 17: The Great Plan of Salvation," Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, (2007),206–16)
This mortal life is a probationary state for us. We are given free agency, according to the Father's plan, to choose good or evil. In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Alma taught, " For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors." Alma 34:32
I have mentioned this analogy before, but I often think of my dog and the training I gave him. I trained him not to sit on the couch. When I was in the room, he would never attempt to sit on the couch. The real test of his training was what he would do when I wasn't present. Would he, when no one was around, still obey the rule of not sitting on the couch? In a similar manner, we are here on this Earth with no memory of our former life, and our Father in Heaven. We must rely on faith, rather than first hand experience to believe in God. Will we, when we are not living in the physical presence of God, still choose to obey? This life becomes the truest test of our obedience.
In addition to gaining a body, learning, and being tested, this Earth life also provides us the opportunity to receive ordinances and make covenants with God that are necessary for our salvation. In John 3:5 we read, "5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." While in this physical body, we have the opportunity to receive the birth by water spoken of in this scripture by being baptized. The birth of the spirit mentioned is the ordinance of receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. This ordinance with its accompanying covenant is but the first step in returning to live with our Heavenly Father. The act of being baptized allows us to follow Jesus' example when he was baptized to "fulfill all righteousness".
13 ¶ Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Matt. 3:13-17
There are two obstacles that keep us from returning to live with our Heavenly Father. The first of these is death, and the second is sin. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, helped us to overcome both of these obstacles. This is what is known as the "atonement". Because Jesus Christ was resurrected, we all will be resurrected one day. Jesus Christ also suffered in the garden of Gethsemane to pay for the sins of the world so that if we repent, we can be forgiven. The Prophet Alma prophesied of the coming of Christ and said,
"8 And now, behold, I will testify unto you of myself that these things are true. Behold, I say unto you, that I do know that Christ shall come among the children of men, to take upon him the transgressions of his people, and that he shall atone for the sins of the world; for the Lord God hath spoken it.
9 For it is expedient that an atonement should be made; for according to the great plan of the Eternal God there must be an atonement made, or else all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made.
10 For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice." Alma 34:8-10
I bear witness that Jesus Christ did in fact suffer for our sins. If we repent, we can be forgiven of the wrongs that we do. I also know that He was resurrected, and after we die, we will also be resurrected one day. If it weren't for Jesus Christ, the plan of salvation could not have worked. All of the plan hinged upon Jesus's sacrifice that He made for us.
In the next installment, I will discuss our post mortal life, and what will happen then. If you have any questions about what I have discussed so far, please feel free to ask.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Linguistics of the Book of Mormon

Sometimes back I posted an email that I received that had to do with the linguistics of the Book of Mormon. I have decided to remove this original post because it was pointed out to me that it was listed on an "Mormon Urban Legend" site. I appreciate Mike Smith for pointing this out to me. Being relatively new to this type of blogging, I have been learning as I go along. In recent months I have been much better at checking sources. For example, when I received information about the gold plates found in Bulgaria, I did some searches to verify the validity of this claim, and did in fact find news articles. Gold plates such as these were used to record the Book of Mormon. In general, I usually post information based on the scriptures, or talks that have been given. But in light of this new information, I have decided to delete that original post, and in it's place want to share with you an article that was printed in the Ensign magazine that also talks about the translation of the Book of Mormon. For information on footnotes, please click here.

Daniel C. Peterson, “Mounting Evidence for the Book of Mormon,” Ensign, Jan 2000, 19

Faithful scholarship continues to expand our understanding of the Book of Mormon.

Serious study of the Book of Mormon by Latter-day Saints is flourishing today as never before. 1 And, with more study, the book’s sturdiness and richness and the remarkable accomplishment of its translator, the Prophet Joseph Smith, become more apparent for everyone to see. 2

Of course, scholarship does not replace spiritual witness as a source of testimony. As Elder B. H. Roberts (1857–1933) of the Seventy said: “The power of the Holy Ghost … must ever be the chief source of evidence for the Book of Mormon. All other evidence is secondary. … No arrangement of evidence, however skillfully ordered; no argument, however adroitly made, can ever take its place.”

Yet scholarship has a definite place even in spiritual matters. The Lord said in an 1829 revelation through the Prophet Joseph Smith to Oliver Cowdery, “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost” (D&C 8:2; emphasis added). In 1832 the Lord said to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “Seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118). As one writer observed: “What no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.” 3

For one thing, careful scholarship helps us to understand more fully, deeply, and precisely. “To be known, the truth must be stated,” Elder Roberts said, “and the clearer and more complete the statement is, the better opportunity will the Holy Spirit have for testifying to the souls of men that the work is true.” 4

The April 1986 general conference, in which President Ezra Taft Benson was sustained as President of the Church, was a turning point for studying and applying the teachings of the Book of Mormon. Citing Doctrine and Covenants 84:54–57 [D&C 84:54–57], President Benson said that the Church had neglected its charter scripture and that “now, in our day, the Lord has revealed the need to reemphasize the Book of Mormon.” He blessed the Saints with “increased understanding” of the book. 5

That blessing has been and clearly continues to be fulfilled. Thankfully, a spirit of attentiveness to the Book of Mormon had already begun working upon the Church. As one indicator only, the publication of serious studies on or about the Book of Mormon rose 50 percent in the late 1970s and exploded another 230 percent in the early 1980s. And the surge continues. 6 This article summarizes a few highlights of what research has taught us about the Book of Mormon and its ancient setting.

The Plates, the Translation, and the Witnesses
For a brief period in the late 1820s, the Prophet Joseph Smith did indeed possess the gold plates. That is among the most securely established facts in Latter-day Saint history. In addition to Joseph Smith, 11 official witnesses and several unofficial witnesses testified to the existence of the plates and, in some cases, to dramatic supernatural confirmation of their truth. Meticulous research on these witnesses has confirmed their good character and the veracity of their accounts. 7

What is more, although the Prophet’s critics found his claim of angelic visits and gold plates ridiculous, we now know that the writing of religious texts on metal plates (sometimes on gold), was an authentic ancient practice. Indeed, the ancient practice now is known to have occurred at precisely the era and place from which Book of Mormon peoples came. 8 In fact, with the Copper Scroll and other materials from the Dead Sea, we have an almost exact parallel: like the ancient Nephite plates, these materials were sealed up in a hillside just prior to military disaster, to preserve them for a future time.

The Book of Mormon claims to have been written in “reformed Egyptian” (Morm. 9:32). Most who have studied the subject conclude that this signifies writing the Hebrew language in modified Egyptian characters. In recent years, we have learned that several ancient documents were written in precisely that fashion. 9

The title page of the Book of Mormon declares that it was to come forth “by the gift and power of God.” Recent evidence and scholarship indicates that this is exactly what would have had to happen. 10 In addition, the evidence indicates that the translation and dictation of the book were accomplished in roughly 63 working days—a torrid pace that, with neither rewrites nor corrections, produced nearly 8.5 pages (of our current English edition) daily. 11

Further, there is no evidence at all that Joseph Smith did any scholarly research, or even that he read very much, before the Book of Mormon appeared. 12 In fact, he may not even have owned a Bible at the time of translation. 13 Joseph Smith had spent the bulk of his time as a youth cutting trees, burning brush, clearing rocks, and plowing. He had received at most a few months of formal schooling. His mother later recalled that, even into his late teens, “he seemed much less inclined to the perusal of books than any of the rest of our children.” 14

His wife Emma reports that, in the late 1820s, Joseph “could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well worded letter, let alone dictate a book like the Book of Mormon. … The larger part of this labor [of translation] was done [in] my presence and where I could see and know what was being done. … During no part of it did Joseph Smith have any [manuscripts] or book of any kind from which to read or dictate except the metalic [sic] plates which I knew he had.” 15 “If,” she said, “he had had anything of the kind he could not have concealed it from me.” 16

And, she added, writing to her son: “I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when acting as his scribe, your father would dictate to me hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him. This was a usual thing for him to do. It would have been improbable that a learned man could do this; and, for one so ignorant and unlearned as he was, it was simply impossible.” 17

In recent years, rigorous statistical analysis strongly indicates that neither Joseph Smith nor any of his known associates composed the English text of the Book of Mormon. In fact, research suggests that the book was written by numerous distinct authors. 18

And research shows that the book does not seem to fit the culture of early 19th-century America. There is little of the military romanticism of Joseph Smith’s America. Instead, we see grimly realistic portrayals of war’s devastation and suffering. And in the story of the Gadianton robbers we have a detailed, realistic portrayal of a prolonged guerrilla struggle—lacking any trace of fife and drum, uniforms, or parades—published well over a century before the guerrilla theorists of the 20th century put pens to paper. 19

From Jerusalem to the New World
The Book of Mormon does fit what we know of the ancient world. Its early account of Jerusalem just before the Babylonian captivity gains in plausibility as research continues to accumulate. 20 For example, the name of Lehi’s wife, Sariah, previously unknown outside the Book of Mormon, has been found in ancient Jewish documents from Egypt. 21 Likewise, the nonbiblical name Nephi belongs to the very time and place of the first Book of Mormon figure who bears it. 22 Nephi’s slaying of Laban and the justification given to him by the Lord for doing so can now be seen as instruction that focused on the culture of Nephi’s era. 23

The imagery in Nephi’s vision is deeply rooted in ancient Near Eastern symbolism with which Joseph Smith could not have been familiar. 24 Moreover, its predictions are strikingly accurate. Consider 1 Nephi 13:12 [1 Ne. 13:12], a passage generally applied to Christopher Columbus: “And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.”

Many have been accustomed to see in Columbus merely an adventurer seeking to open trade routes to the East Indies. But with the recent publication of Columbus’s private Book of Prophecies, we see how accurate the Book of Mormon’s description of him is. He said he was guided by the Holy Spirit, and he was eager not only to spread Christianity but to fulfill biblical prophecies. Among his favorite passages were John 10:16, with its reference to “other sheep,” and the passages of Isaiah concerning the people on the “isles of the sea.” 25 These are the very passages that the Book of Mormon applies to itself. 26

In his 1952 essay “Lehi in the Desert,” Hugh Nibley illuminated Lehi’s land journey from Jerusalem by placing it along the coast of the Arabian peninsula. 27 Since that time, Latter-day Saint scholars and explorers have refined our understanding of that route through actual visits and systematic surveys of the area, enabling us to identify likely Book of Mormon locations in Arabia. 28 The Book of Mormon account of Lehi’s Arabian sojourn is remarkably accurate to numerous specific geographic conditions, but no scholar in the 19th century, let alone Joseph Smith, could have known of it. 29

Lehi’s epic journey from Jerusalem to the New World endured in the memory of his descendants, who saw it as a signal instance of God’s miraculous power much like the Israelites’ earlier deliverance from Egyptian bondage. 30 In fact, careful modern readings show that the very terms in which Lehi’s journey was described and remembered derive from the biblical account of the Exodus. The literary crafting of the story is both very sophisticated and authentically Near Eastern. 31

An Old World Culture in a New World Setting
In its smallest details, the Book of Mormon reveals its roots in the ancient Near East. For example, the system of exchange set out in Alma 11:3–19 recalls ancient Babylonian economic legislation. 32 And, after Zemnarihah’s execution (3 Ne. 4:28), the tree upon which he had been hanged was ritually chopped down, just as ancient Jewish law required. 33 The oath of allegiance taken by Nephite soldiers in Alma 46:21–22 is almost identical in form to military oaths among ancient Israelite and Hittite warriors. 34 And the curse of speechlessness placed upon Korihor in Alma 30:49 finds striking ancient parallels. 35

King Benjamin’s classic address in Mosiah 2–5 occupies roughly 11 pages in the current English edition, which means that Joseph Smith may have dictated this doctrinally rich text of nearly 5,000 words in a little more than one day. Recent research shows that the sermon is intimately linked with the ancient Israelite Feast of Tabernacles and the Day of Atonement, as well as with archaic treaty and covenant formulas and early Near Eastern coronation festivals. 36 Even the physical setting of the speech—delivered while the king stood upon a tower (see Mosiah 2:7)—is ritually appropriate to the occasion. But the Prophet Joseph Smith could not have learned this from the English Bibles or any other books available to him. 37

Likewise, he could not have known that the ancient Hebrew term moshia’ signifies a champion of justice against oppression, appointed by God, whose mission it is to liberate a chosen people from oppression, especially by nonviolent means. The term does not occur in the English of the King James Bible. But such nonviolent deliverance is a major theme of the book of Mosiah. 38

The appearance of the two men named Alma in the Book of Mormon has occasioned much comment from critics. They observe that Alma is a woman’s name and Latin rather than Hebrew. (Many recognize the phrase alma mater, which means “beneficent mother” and refers to the school from which someone has graduated.) They are correct, of course. If Joseph Smith knew the name Alma at all in the early 19th century, he would have known it as a woman’s name in Latin. Recent documentary finds demonstrate, however, that Alma also occurs as a Semitic masculine personal name in the ancient Near East—just as it does in the Book of Mormon. 39

Alma 7:10 predicts that Jesus “shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers.” Is this a mistake? Everyone knows that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, not in Jerusalem. But it is now plain from modern evidence that Bethlehem could be, and indeed was, regarded anciently as a town in the “land of Jerusalem.”

A recently released text from the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example—a text claiming origin in Jeremiah’s days (and therefore in Lehi’s)—says that the Jews of that period were “taken captive from the land of Jerusalem.” 40 Joseph Smith could not have learned this from the Bible, though, for no such language appears in it.

The recent discovery in the Book of Mormon of its characteristically ancient literary structure or technique known as chiasmus—a rhetorical device overlooked by biblical scholarship until decades after Joseph Smith’s death—is another powerful indicator of the record’s antiquity. 41 The same literary structure has now been identified in pre-Columbian America. 42 An understanding of the chiastic construction of Alma 36 also impressively deepens our understanding of the Christ-centered character of that entire chapter and of the Book of Mormon’s witness as a whole.

Another intriguing example of chiasmus occurs in Helaman 6:10 [Hel. 6:10]. Here, the chiastic turning point rests on an equivalence between the word Lord and the royal name Zedekiah. But those words are only equivalent for readers who are aware that the term Lord probably stands (as it does in the King James Bible) for the divine name Jehovah or Yahweh, and that the -iah element in Zedekiah is the first portion of that same divine name. Also this chiasm works better in Hebrew than in English, which is an important and remarkable clue to the original language of the Book of Mormon. 43

Many such clues appear among the book’s place names. Jershon, for instance, designates a place that was given to the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi as a “land … for an inheritance” (Alma 27:22). In Hebrew, Jershon means “a place of inheritance.” 44 Joseph Smith simply would not have known this in the late 1820s.

The allegory of the olive tree in Jacob 5 shows a clear knowledge of olive cultivation far beyond what Joseph Smith, growing up in the American Northeast, could have possessed. But it is entirely consistent, in impressive detail, with what we learn from ancient manuals on olive cultivation. 45 Likewise, the account of the great destruction given in 3 Nephi 8 [3 Ne. 8] finds remarkable parallels with what modern seismology and vulcanology show about cataclysmic geological events and with historical reports of such catastrophes. Yet Joseph Smith never saw a volcano and never experienced a significant earthquake, nor is it likely he had read any substantial literature on the subject. 46

But the region of Mesoamerica—particularly southern Mexico and Guatemala, where many suggest that much of the Book of Mormon story may have happened—is a place of continuing volcanic and seismic activity. Painstaking research of John L. Sorenson and others has demonstrated the plausibility of the complex geographical data contained in the Book of Mormon. It suggests many fascinating correlations with what we continue to learn about life in ancient Mesoamerica. 47

Summing Up
As Latter-day Saints, we must never take the Book of Mormon for granted. Its sheer existence is astonishing. That it was produced by an almost completely uneducated young man constitutes a challenge to the entire world. Yet its historical narrative is sober and realistic. Its content is rich, profound, and subtly complex. 48 And though dictated at a rapid pace, it tells a highly consistent and very complex story involving scores of place and personal names and internal quotations. 49

Persons who choose to dismiss the Book of Mormon must find their own ideas for explaining it and the mounting evidence for its authenticity. And while we will never “prove” the Book of Mormon true, the trajectory of the evidence strongly suggests that it is exactly what it claims to be, a book worthy of our deep study, reflection, and serious personal prayer. Thousands of hours of research have produced the current blossoming of Book of Mormon studies that bless the lives of Latter-day Saints. They cannot be lightly brushed aside.

The conclusion of the matter is that much modern evidence supports the more powerful witness of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true. Joseph Smith, who translated it, had to be what he said he was, a prophet of God. The Church of Jesus Christ has been restored. Most important, the Book of Mormon and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affirm that Jesus is the Christ, the divine Savior of the world, and that He will come someday in the future in the manner that the scriptures herald.

[illustrations] Above: More than 100 examples of ancient writing on metal plates have been discovered, including this gold plate of Darius, buried in a stone box in 516–515 b.c. Right: Research on the 11 official witnesses to the golden plates has confirmed their good character. (Joseph Smith Translating; Eight Witnesses View the Book of Mormon Plates, both by Dale Kilbourn.)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Book of Mormon Sampler Sept. 12, 2008

2 Nephi 31:4-11

4 Wherefore, I would that ye should remember that I have spoken unto you concerning that prophet which the Lord showed unto me, that should baptize the Lamb of God, which should take away the sins of the world.
5 And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!
6 And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness in being baptized by water?
7 Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments.
8 Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove.
9 And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them.
10 And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?
11 And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Magnificence of Man

In light of the recent "Big Bang" experiments, I thought I would post this talk given at BYU by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Russell M. Nelson, “The Magnificence of Man,” New Era, Oct 1987, 44

From an address delivered at Brigham Young University on March 29, 1987.

The human body is a marvelous manifestation of the Divine Creator’s art, worthy of our deepest gratitude.

I invite you to ponder things magnificent. The word magnificent is derived from two Latin roots. The prefix magni- comes from a term meaning “great,” and the suffix comes from the Latin facere, meaning “to make” or “to do.” A simple definition of magnificent, then, might be “great deed” or “greatly made.”

Think of the most magnificent sight you have ever seen. It could be a meadow in springtime filled with beautiful wildflowers. Or perhaps you have been awestruck, as have I, at the magnificence of a single rose. I have come to appreciate the magnificence of an orange, with each droplet of juice packaged in an edible container, joined with many other packets, grouped in sections, and all neatly wrapped in a disposable, biodegradable peel.

Some would say the most magnificent sight they have ever beheld is looking heavenward on a summer night, seeing stars beyond number dotting the sky. Some might choose the view of the Grand Canyon at sunrise; others, the beauty of a mountain lake. Some might select a peacock with its tail in full fan, or a hummingbird seemingly suspended in midair while feeding. These magnificent sights are wondrous beyond measure. They are all “great deeds” of our divine Creator.

Now, ponder the magnificence of what you see when you look in the mirror. Ignore the freckles, the unruly hair, or the blemishes, and look beyond to see the real you—a child of God—created by him, in his image. If we lift the lid on the treasure chest of the marvelous attributes of our bodies, we can discover, at least in part, the magnificence of man.

Embryonic Development
In the first compartment of the treasure chest, we might look at the magnificence of human creation itself.

We don’t know precisely how two germ cells unite to become a human embryo, but we do know that both the female cell and the male cell contain all the new individual’s hereditary material and information, stored in a space so small it cannot be seen by the naked eye. Twenty-three chromosomes from both the father and the mother unite in one new cell. These chromosomes contain thousands of genes. A marvelous process of genetic coding is established, by which all the basic human characteristics of the unborn person are determined. A new DNA complex is thus formed, and a continuum of growth is instituted—which results in a new human being. Approximately 22 days after two germ cells unite, a little heart begins to beat. At 26 days the blood begins to circulate. Cells multiply and divide, some to become eyes that see. Some become ears that hear, while others are destined to become fingers.

Specific Organs
In our treasure chest of understanding, each jewel merits admiration. The eyes with which we see are magnificent. No doubt you have stood before the mirror, as have I, watching pupils dilating to let more light in, constricting to reduce the light allowed to reach the sensitive retinas. A self-focusing lens is at the front of each eye. Eyes are connected to the brain, ready to record sights seen. No wires, no batteries, no external connections are needed; our visual apparatus is marvelous—infinitely more priceless than any camera money can buy.

If we admire good stereophonic equipment for sensing sound, we can appreciate the magnificence of the human ear. Compacted into an area about the size of a marble is all the equipment needed to perceive sound. This marvelous sound system is also connected to the recording instrument of the brain.

A large portion of my life’s study and research has been focused on the jewel of the human heart—a pump so magnificent that its power is almost beyond our comprehension. To control the direction of flow of blood within it, there are four important valves, pliable as a parachute and delicate as a dainty silk scarf. They open and close over 100,000 times a day—over 36 million times a year. Yet, unless altered by disease, they are so rugged that they can stand this kind of wear seemingly indefinitely. No man-made material developed thus far can be flexed so frequently and for so long without breaking.

Each day the heart pumps enough fluid to fill a 2,000-gallon tank. The work it performs daily is equivalent to lifting a 150-pound man to the top of the Empire State Building, while consuming less energy than that used by a small light bulb. At the crest of the heart is an electrical generator that transmits energy down special lines, causing myriads of muscle fibers to beat in coordination and in rhythm. This synchrony would be the envy of any orchestra’s conductor. All this power is condensed in the human heart—only about the size of one’s fist, yet energized from within by an endowment from on high.

One of the most wondrous of all jewels is the human brain, with its intricate combination of power cells and recording, memory, storage, and retrieval systems. The brain serves as headquarters for the personality and character of each human being. The capacity of the brain is seemingly infinite. Experience builds upon previous experience. Indeed, continuing exercise of the intellect brings forth increased intellectual capacity.

We could spend a lifetime studying the incredible chemical capacity of the liver, the kidneys, and any or all of the endocrine and exocrine glands of the body. Each is a shimmering jewel, worthy of our deepest gratitude.

Conceptual Considerations
Now let us turn our attention to jewels in another compartment. Let us consider some concepts that go beyond that of individual organ systems.

The first concept I would mention is that of reserve, or backup. In the theater, major actors have understudies. In electrical instruments, backup in the event of a power failure may be provided by batteries. Think of the backup provided by a number of paired body organs such as the eyes, ears, lungs, adrenal glands, and kidneys. In the event of illness, injury, or loss of one of these organs, the other is there ready to keep our bodily functions intact. In the event of loss of sight or hearing altogether, other sensory powers become augmented in a miraculous manner.

Some backup systems are not so apparent. For example, crucial single organs, like the brain, the heart, and the liver, are all nourished by two routes of circulation, which minimizes damage in the event of loss of blood flow through any single vessel.

Consider another concept—the body’s self-defense. Think of the protection provided by the skin. Could you make, or even conjure in your mind how to create, a cloak that would protect you and at the same time perceive and warn against injuries that excessive heat or cold might cause? The skin does that. It even gives signals which indicate that another part of the body is ailing. The skin can flush and sweat with fever. When one is frightened or ill, it pales. When one is embarrassed, it blushes. It is replete with nerve fibers that communicate and often limit possible harm through perception of pain.

Pain itself is part of the body’s defense mechanism. For example, sensory areas of the mouth guard the delicate esophagus, which has very few nerve fibers.

The body also produces chemical antibodies in response to infections. These antibodies not only combat infection; they persist with memory to strengthen resistance in days to come.

Closely related to the concept of self-defense is that of self-repair. Broken bones mend and become strong once again. If I were to break one of the legs of a chair, that leg would never heal itself. Yet many of us walk on legs that once were broken. Lacerations of the skin heal themselves. A leak in the circulation will seal itself. Circulatory systems outside the body do not have this power—something I gained appreciation for early in my research career when working to create an artificial heart-lung machine. Whenever tubing in the machine sprang a leak, it meant long hours cleaning up in the lab. Never did a leak in the machine seal itself.

The concept of self-renewal is remarkable. Each body cell is created and then regenerated from the earth’s elements according to the “recipe” or formula of our unique genes. The average red blood corpuscle, for example, lives about 120 days. Then it dies and is replaced by another. Each time we bathe, thousands of dead and dying cells are scrubbed away and replaced by a younger crop. To my thinking, this process of self-renewal prefigures the process of resurrection.

Another remarkable concept is that of auto-regulation. In spite of wide fluctuations in the temperature of man’s environment, the body’s temperature is carefully controlled within certain narrow bounds. Auto-regulation limits the time you can hold your breath. As breath is held, carbon dioxide accumulates. Carbon dioxide is monitored continuously by two carotid bodies situated in the neck. They transmit signals through nerves to the brain, which then sends stimuli to muscles of respiration, causing them to work so that we inhale oxygen and eliminate the carbon dioxide. Sodium, potassium, water, glucose, protein, and nitrogen are but a few of the many other constituents continuously monitored by chemical regulators within our bodies.

As we consider self-defense, self-repair, and self-renewal, an interesting paradox emerges. Limitless life could result if these marvelous qualities of the body continued in perpetuity. If we could create anything that could defend itself, repair itself, and renew itself without limit, we could create perpetual life. That was what our Creator did with the bodies he created for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. If they had eaten the fruit of the tree of life, they would have lived forever. According to the Lord as revealed through his prophets, the fall of Adam instituted the aging process, which ultimately results in physical death. We do not understand all the chemistry, but we are witnesses of the consequences of growing old. Those consequences assure us that there is a limit to the length of life upon the earth.

Of course, our bodies can develop troubles that do not repair themselves with time. Death, when it comes, may seem untimely to our mortal minds. But we need to have a larger view—that death is part of life. Alma tells us that “it was not expedient that man should be reclaimed from this temporal death, for that would destroy the great plan of happiness” (Alma 42:8).

When severe illness or tragic injuries claim an individual in the prime of life, we can take comfort in this fact: The very laws which could not allow life to persist here are the same eternal laws that will be implemented at the time of the resurrection, when that body “shall be restored to [its] proper and perfect frame” (Alma 40:23).

Thoughts of life, death, and resurrection bring us to face crucial questions. How were we made? By whom? And why?

Created by God
Through the ages, some without scriptural understanding have tried to explain our existence by pretentious words such as ex nihilo (out of nothing). Others have deduced that, because of certain similarities between different forms of life, there has been an organic evolution from one form to another. Many of these have concluded that the universe began as a “big bang” that eventually resulted in the creation of our planet and life upon it.

To me, such theories are unbelievable! Could an explosion in a printing shop produce a dictionary? It is unthinkable! Even if it could be argued to be within a remote realm of possibility, such a dictionary could certainly not heal its own torn pages or renew its own worn corners or reproduce its own subsequent editions!

We are children of God, created by him and formed in his image. At least 55 verses of scripture attest to our divine creation. I have selected one to represent all the verses that convey the same conclusion:

“The Gods took counsel among themselves and said: Let us go down and form man in our image, after our likeness. …

“So the Gods went down to organize man in their own image, in the image of the Gods to form they him, male and female to form they them” (Abr. 4:26, 27).

Spiritual Discernment
I believe all of those scriptures that pertain to the creation of man. The decision to believe is a spiritual one, not made solely by an understanding of things physical, for we read that “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14).

It is incumbent upon each informed and spiritually attuned person to help overcome such foolishness of men who would deny divine creation or think that man simply evolved. By the Spirit, we perceive the truer and more believable wisdom of God.

With great conviction, I add my testimony to that of my fellow Apostle Paul, who said, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

“If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Cor. 3:16, 17).

Duality of Man
The Lord said that “the spirit and the body are the soul of man” (D&C 88:15). Therefore, each one of us is a dual being—a biological (physical) entity, and an intellectual (spiritual) entity. In the beginning, man, the intellectual entity, was with God. Our intelligence “was not created or made,” nor can it be (see D&C 93:29).

That spirit, joined with a physical body of such remarkable qualities, becomes a living soul of supernal worth. The psalmist so expressed this thought:

“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;

“What is man, that thou art mindful of him? …

“For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour” (Ps. 8:3–5).

Why were we created? Why are we here? Why are we upon the earth?

God has made it plain over and over again that the world was made for mankind. We are here to work out our divine destiny, according to an eternal plan that was presented to us in the great council of heaven. Our bodies have been created to accommodate our spirits, to allow us to experience the challenges of mortality and continue our eternal progression.

Avoid Desecration of the Physical Temple
When we understand our nature and our purpose on earth, and that our bodies are physical temples of God, we will realize that it is sacrilege to let anything enter the body that might defile it. It is irreverent to let even the gaze of our precious eyesight or the sensors of our touch or hearing supply the brain with memories that are unclean or unworthy.

Could any of us lightly regard precious seeds of reproduction—specifically and uniquely ours—or disregard the moral laws of God, who gave divine rules concerning their sacred use?

We know we are children of God—that he created us and that he has given us agency to choose. We also know that we are accountable to him. He has defined the truth and prescribed commandments. Obedience to his law will bring us joy. Disobedience of those commandments is defined as sin. Because we live in a world that seems increasingly reluctant to designate dishonorable deeds as sinful, the scriptures warn us: “Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favour” (Prov. 14:9).

No one is perfect. Some may have sinned grievously in transgressing God’s laws. But God is merciful. We can repent and learn to control our appetites of the flesh.

Substances such as alcohol, tobacco, and harmful drugs are forbidden by the Lord. We have similarly been warned about the evils of pornography and unclean thoughts. Appetites for these degrading forces can become addictive. In time, physical or mental addictions enslave both the body and the spirit. Repentance from these shackles, or from any other shackles to sin, should be accomplished in this life, while we still have the aid of a mortal body to help us develop self-mastery.

When we truly know our divine nature, we will want to control our appetites. We will focus our eyes on sights, our ears on sounds, and our minds on thoughts that are a credit to our physical creation as a temple of our Father in Heaven. In daily prayer, we will gratefully acknowledge him as our Creator and thank him for the magnificence of our physical temple. We will heed his counsel.

Beware of False Doctrine
Of course, we know that “there is an opposition in all things” (2 Ne. 2:11). In the world, even many so-called “educators” teach ideas that are contrary to divine truth. We must be mindful of this prophetic counsel:

“O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.

“But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God” (2 Ne. 9:28–29).

We need not be reminded that the work and glory of the Lord are opposed by the forces of Satan, the master of deceit. Remember, “Man may deceive his fellow-men, deception may follow deception, and the children of the wicked one may have power to seduce the foolish and untaught, till naught but fiction feeds the many, and the fruit of falsehood carries in its current the giddy to the grave” (JS—H 1:71, footnote).

Let us be wise and keep away from temptations and snares. Let us cautiously avoid “foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.” Let us “flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.” Let us “fight the good fight of faith” and “lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:9, 11–12).

Spiritual Dominion
The magnificence of man is matchless. But, glorious as this physical tabernacle is, the body is designed to support something even more glorious—the eternal spirit, which dwells in each of our mortal frames. The great accomplishments of this life are rarely physical. Those attributes by which we shall be judged one day are spiritual. With the blessing of our bodies to assist us, we may develop spiritual qualities of honesty, integrity, compassion, and love. Only with the development of the spirit may we acquire “faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, [and] diligence” (D&C 4:6).

Let us pattern our lives after our great Exemplar, Jesus the Christ, whose parting words among men included this eternal challenge: “What manner of men ought ye to be? … even as I am” (3 Ne. 27:27).

We are sons and daughters of God. He is our Father; we are his children. Our divine inheritance is the magnificence of man. I pray that we may honor and magnify it.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Book of Mormon Sampler Sept. 8, 2008

Ether 12:6
6 And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Go to the Source

Recently a friend of mine made some claims that our church had some erroneous beliefs that in fact we don't have. I questioned him on it, and told him that it is possible a church member made those statements, but that I knew that it could not be actual church policy. He went back and found that the information he had been reading had been generated from a fundamentalist splinter group of the church, not from us. I'm not sure why, but our church has been the target of some of the most malicious efforts to malign and misinform.

Some years ago, some representatives from another church came by my house and talked to me. When they found out that I am LDS, they promptly offered me a pamphlet that included information about our church. Out of curiousity I took the pamphlet and after they left, I started to read it. I was shocked to find that their church had printed incorrect information about our church. I couldn't help but wonder why a church, that obviously believes in being Christlike, would not check their sources better before printing misinformation. Was this a deliberate attempt to malign us? Possibly, but I think it was more of a act of carelessness.

One of the things that I have always appreciated about a fellow blogger, Looney, is that he has the desire to go to the source for information instead of hearing what others have to say about certain religions. As I have seen what is being published by other faiths on the internet about my religion, I appreciate even more those who come to a church member for their information. I can't tell you how upsetting it can be to see out- right lies, or subtle "taking out of context" that is twisted for the purpose of maligning our faith. It really makes one wonder who, after all, is inspiring their efforts. I have talked about this before, but do you know how much money our church spends every year to combat other religions? ZERO, nada, zilch. We have enough work to do trying to spread the gospel and take care of our own duties to worry about what other faiths believe. In addition, one of our articles of faith states, "We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men, the same privilege. Let them worship how, where, or what they may." (that was from memory, so I hope I got the punctuation right)

I am offering you here a chance to learn about our religion in a non-threatening environment. No question is out of reason for me. I do not claim to be an expert, but I have at my disposal many resources to give answers according to what church authorities have taught. If you have any questions at all, please ask me. Please don't go to a website that will try to paint us as non-Christian, or in other non christlike ways. I am willing to answer your questions here, and give you accurate information. Ask away!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Book of Mormon Sampler Sept. 6, 2008

2 Nephi 9:28,29

28 O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties,and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.
29 But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Our Premortal Existence

Recently I have been teaching my seminary students about the Plan of Salvation. Elder Boyd K. Packer of the quorum of the twelve apostles has referred to this plan as a sort of "three act play". The first "act" of this plan is our premortal life. The Bible does have some scriptures that speak of our life before this earth life, but we also have additional scripture given in the latter days that gives us more information about our pre-earth life.

In Jeremiah we read:
5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. Jeremiah 1:5
We lived with our Heavenly Father before this earth life. We are actual spirit children of Him. There are several Bible scriptures that talk about our divine heritage.
Hebrews 12:9
9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
Acts 17:29
29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.
While in the premortal world, God the Father proposed the plan of salvation. Satan, who was one of our spirit brothers, proposed a plan of his own. In his plan, we would not have free agency to choose for ourselves, but would be forced to obey. He wanted to take the glory for that success for himself. Jesus Christ agreed with the Father's plan, and offered to give His life as a sacrifice for our sins so that when we make mistakes we can repent. His desire was that the glory for the success would then be given to the Father.
In Latter day scripture we read:
Moses 4:1-4
1 And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.
2 But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.
3 Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;
4 And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice
At this time, a war was fought between those who chose the Father's plan, and those who chose Satan's plan. The bible does tell us a bit about this war.
Revelations 12:7-13
7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.
Isaiah 14: 12-20
12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
16 They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms;
17 That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?
18 All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house.
19 But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcase trodden under feet.
20 Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land, and slain thy people: the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned.
Under the direction of the Father, Jesus Christ created this world.
John 1:1-4, 14
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Job teaches us:
4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
5 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?
6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;
7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Job 38:4-7
I can only imagine the joy that the we as sons and daughters of God experienced when this earth was created for us.
So now we have come to this earth to be tested and tried to see whether or not we will choose to follow the Father. Will we, when we have no memory of Him and our life before, still choose to do what is right? I will discuss this, and our mortal existence in a future post.