Sunday, December 27, 2009

Latter-Day Hymns: O Thou, Before the World Began

O Thou, Before the World Began
1. O thou, before the world began,
Ordained a sacrifice for man,
And by th’eternal Spirit made
An off’ring in the sinner’s stead;
Our everlasting Priest art thou,
Pleading thy death for sinners now.

2. Thy off’ring still continues new
Before the righteous Father’s view.
Thyself the Lamb forever slain;
Thy priesthood doth unchanged remain.
Thy years, O God, can never fail,
Nor thy blest work within the veil.

3. Oh, that our faith may never move
But stand unshaken as thy love,
Sure evidence of things unseen;
Now let it pass the years between
And view thee bleeding on the tree:
My Lord, my God, who dies for me.

Text: William H. Turton, 1856–1938
Music: Frank W. Asper, 1892–1973

Quote of the Day: Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Dieter F. Uchtdorf

"We increase our love for our Heavenly Father and demonstrate that love by aligning our thoughts and actions with God’s word. His pure love directs and encourages us to become more pure and holy. It inspires us to walk in righteousness—not out of fear or obligation but out of an earnest desire to become even more like Him because we love Him. By doing so, we can become “born again … [and] cleansed by blood, even the blood of [the] Only Begotten; that [we] might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory.”15 Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Love of God,” Ensign, Nov 2009, 21–24

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Scriptures in Chinese Available Online

The chinese translation of the scriptures is now available online. This includes: The King James Version of the Bible, The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price. Click here to read the scriptures in Chinese online.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Condescension of God

The word "condescension", according to Miriam Webster Dictionary, means "Voluntary descent from one's rank or dignity in relations with an inferior." Usually in our culture today, we use the word "condescend" with regard to someone who thinks they are superior, but whom we view as on the same level as ourselves. But in the Book of Mormon, the word "condescension" is used as is described by Miriam Webster, to refer to one of superior rank who did lower Himself to our level.

The prophet Nephi was shown in vision, by an angel, the future birth of the Savior Jesus Christ. The angel said to him, "Knowest thou the condescension of God?" (1 Nephi 11:16). Nephi replied, "I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things." (v.17) He was then shown that the very God of heaven and earth would be born in to mortality. He also saw that He would go forth with great power and glory, and that He would heal the sick, and cast out unclean spirits. Nephi recorded, "32 And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record. 33 And I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world. " (1 Nephi 11:32,33) He also saw the subsequent resurrection of the Savior, and His visit to the Americas.

The prophet Alma also was shown the future birth of the Savior some 80 or so years before His birth. He recorded what was told him by the Spirit: "10 And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.
11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me." Alma 7 10-13

Both of these prophets was shown that the Lord Jesus Christ would come to earth and suffer at the hands of "inferiors", and live in lowly station, in order to provide the atonement for us all.

In speaking about this condescension, Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught,

"Here we have a glorious thing. Here we have exalted, noble beings on a plane and status so far above our present circumstance that we have no way of comprehending their dominion and glory, and we have one of them, God our Eternal Father, through the condescension and infinite love and mercy that he has for us, stepping down from his noble status and becoming the Father of a Son after the manner of the flesh. We have that Son being born, that Son who was his firstborn in the spirit, who had like power and omnipotence with the Father. We have each of them performing a work that there is no way for us to understand as far as magnitude and glory and importance is concerned.
Now the greatest and most important single thing there is in all eternity—the thing that transcends all others since the time of the creation of man and of the worlds—is the fact of the atoning sacrifice of Christ the Lord. He came into the world to live and to die—to live the perfect life and be the pattern, the similitude, the prototype for all men, and to crown his ministry in death, in the working out of the infinite and eternal atoning sacrifice. And by virtue of this atonement, all things pertaining to life and immortality, to existence, to glory and salvation, to honor and rewards hereafter, all things are given full force and efficacy and virtue. The Atonement is the central thing in the whole gospel system. The Prophet said that all other things pertaining to our religion are only appendages to it. ... And so here we have a doctrine of the Divine Sonship. We have one man out of all eternity—one man among the infinite hosts of the spirit children of God our Father—who is born into the world, inheriting from an immortal exalted Father the power of immortality and inheriting, on the other hand, from a mortal woman—the best and most gracious and most noble mortal woman without question—inheriting from her the power of mortality. Now the power of immortality is the power to live. It is the power to elect to continue to live. The power of mortality is the power to die. And so here is one being who had a dual nature, who could elect to live or elect to die; and having made the election in accordance with the plan of the Father, having elected to separate body and spirit, then by the power of the Father, which is the power of immortality, he could elect to live again. As a consequence we have the redemption from death, the ransom from the grave; we have immortality for him and for us and for all men." Bruce R. McConkie, “Behold the Condescension of God,” New Era, Dec 1984, 35

Our Savior condescended to come to Earth and live among us. He not only suffered at the hands of mortals, but died at the hands of mortals. But He rose again the third day, and offers salvation to us all. Bishop Richard C. Edgley taught,

"In the 34th chapter of Alma, Amulek testifies of the need for the Son of God to personally come down to perform the Atonement according to the great plan of the Eternal God. He explains that the Atonement must be “a great and last sacrifice,” not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast or fowl as was customary (see Alma 34:9–10). It had to be infinite, covering all transgression, all suffering, and it had to be eternal—applying to all mankind from the infinite beginning to the endless end. No, it could not be a sacrifice of man, beast, or fowl. It had to be a sacrifice of a God, even God the Creator, God the Redeemer. He had to condescend from godhood to mortality, and in mortality to sacrificial lamb. His gift of redemption, through His condescension, necessitated His suffering, exquisite pain, and humiliation." Richard C. Edgley, “‘The Condescension of God’,” Ensign, Dec 2001, 16

At this Christmas time, I am eternally grateful for the offering that our Savior has given to us. I am thankful for His sacrifice, willingly given. I am thankful that this free gift is available to all mankind. This is the true message of the Christmas season.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Light Unto All: A Christmas Gift

I like this video that features missionaries of our church who are from many different countries.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Confusion of the Nicene Creed

I have been thinking for some time about the Nicene Creed, which set the foundation for the beliefs of much of the Christian world. I don't know, but I think our church may be the only Christian church that believes that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three distinct and separate beings. The belief that they are one being with shared substance is a belief that primarily came as a result of the Nicene creed.
The first time I read the Nicene creed, I pretty much just scanned it. I didn't read it carefully. My first impression was that there was a lot of good information in it. But after reading it carefully, I realized why our beliefs differ so much from the rest of the Christian world. Our belief in the nature of God is: "We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost." We believe they are one in purpose, and make up the "Godhead", but that they are three distinct and physically separate beings. The Father and the Son have glorified, immortal bodies. The Holy Ghost has not, as yet, received a body, but is a spirit. This enables His spirit to communicate with our spirits.
But let's look at the Nicene creed itself. Here is the creed in it's entirety:

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

I have several problems with the creed. Here are some phrases I find troubling:
1. "begotten, not made," Yes, Jesus Christ was begotten, the only physically begotten son of the Father. But why insert the phrase "not made"? He is the literal son of God, and was born to mortality.
2. "being of one substance with the Father" If Jesus Christ is one substance with the Father, then why did Jesus Christ pray to Him in the garden of Gethsemane? And if they are one substance, then how is it possible that He, "sits on the right hand of the Father"? If they are one being, then why would Stephen feel compelled to say, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. "? Acts 7:56. Some may say this is one of the "mysteries". I don't think the nature of our God should be one of the mysteries. We need to understand about the God that we worship. In addition, we are told in the scriptures that "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:" Romans 8:16 If we are actual children of God, and were created in His image, will we grow up to be a multi-person being? A child grows to be like it's parent. Some believe that God doesn't have a physical body either, but is spirit. If that were true, then why was it so important for Jesus Christ to resurrect His body?
3. Most Christian churches believe the Nicene creed view of God, yet the creed states, "And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church." Besides the fact that many non-Catholic churches hold these same beliefs, I have to wonder why an apostolic church has no modern apostles.

I think I'm a pretty simple person. I am not highly intellectual. But even I can see that there are confusing ideas in this creed. I don't say these things to criticize those who do believe them, but to start a discussion about the possibility that the Nicene creed was not inspired by God, but by the philosphers of the day. A well known LDS scholar, Hugh Nibley, had some very interesting things to say about the formation of the Nicene creed. I am including one chapter of his writings about the subject here. It is a little lengthy, but I feel it is well worth the read.

Prophets and Creeds
by Hugh Nibley

For a long time the world refused to look upon Mormons as Christians. Indeed most people still think of them as a tertium quid, unique and isolated from all other creatures. There is some justice in this viewpoint if one defines a Christian as one who subscribes to the creeds of Christendom, but the dictionary gives no such definition: for it, a Christian is simply one who believes in Christ, with nothing said about adherence to formulae describing his nature devised three hundred years after his death. The Latter-day Saints do not accept the ecumenical creeds because they were not given by the power of revelation but worked out by committees of experts. As we noted last week, the early church could not make too much of the inability of philosophers to discover the nature of God, yet the first and greatest of the councils, that of Nicaea, may be described without exaggeration as a philosopher's field day. Let us consider briefly a few steps that led to the formulation of the Nicene Creed.

It all began when Bishop Alexander of Alexandria "one day in a meeting of his presbyters and the rest of the clergy under him, theologized in a rather showy way (philtimoteron) on the subject of the Holy Trinity, philosophizing to the effect that in a triad was really a monad. Arius, one of the presbyters under his authority and a man not unskilled in dialectic give and take, . . . took the extreme opposite position just to show how much smarter he was (out of philoneikias) . . . and replied bitingly to the things the Bishop had said." Socrates, the historian, concludes a summary of Arius' speech on this occasion by saying, "Constructing his syllogism by this novel reasoning, he attracted everybody's attention, and with a small spark lit a mighty blaze."1 Now isn't this a perfect illustration of those very vices and follies for which the original Christians condemned philosophy? The bishop, philosophizing in a showy way, not seeking truth but just being smart, using technical terms—triad and monad—unknown to the scripture, is refuted by a clergyman carefully trained in that dialectic art which the early Fathers so abhorred; he too, animated not by love of truth but by a desire to outshine the bishop—such is the spirit in which the great investigation begins.

The "mighty blaze" mentioned by Socrates divided the Christian world into warring factions, and the Emperor Constantine wrote a strong letter to the heads of both parties. In this letter he says among other things, "These and such like technical questions . . . are simply a sort of parlor game (ereschalia) for the passing of idle time, and albeit they may be justified as providing a kind of training for the wits, they are best kept locked and confined in your own minds, and not lightly aired in public places nor foolishly permitted to reach the ears of the masses. For just how many people are there who can understand such advanced and extremely puzzling matters, or have any clear idea what they are about, or give a correct explanation of them? And even if someone should suppose that he could understand it easily, how many of the common people will he be able to persuade? Or who would be able to carry on a disputation in the subtleties of such technical questions without running an appalling risk? Therefore a great outpouring of words in such matters should be prohibited, lest the problem presently carry us beyond the depths of our own limited understanding, or we go beyond the limited training of those who listen to our teachings, who can no longer understand what is said, and out of this double defect the whole society necessarily fall into blasphemy or schism. While you wrangle with one another over minor, nay, utterly trivial matters, it is not right that God's numerous people should be led by your minds; in view of your disunity, such a thing is utterly wrong, absolutely improper."2 What a lecture to the leaders of the Church! And these were the men who were to make the creeds.

In the end, the emperor had to summon, as we all know, the great Council of Nicaea. While the gathering body of churchmen was waiting for the latecomers to arrive, some interesting preliminary discussions were held. These illustrate perfectly the spirit of the whole thing. We are told that a large number of laymen were there, experts in the art of dialectic, entering enthusiastically into the discussions on every side. "Meanwhile, not long before the general assembly was to take place, certain dialecticians were addressing the multitude and showing off in controversy. Great crowds being attracted by the pleasure of hearing them, one of the confessors, a layman with a clear head, stood up and rebuked the dialecticians and said to them that Christ and the Apostles did not give to us the dialectical art nor empty tricks, but straightforward knowledge preserved by faith and good works. When he said this, all those present were flabbergasted, and then agreed. And the dialecticians, hearing straight talk, became a good deal more sober and contained. Thus was abated the uproar which dialectic had stirred up."3 There were still clear heads in the church, but they did not belong to the men who were about to make the creed. They are represented here by an aged layman, a martyr—that is, one who had refused to deny the faith in persecution—a link with the real old church, who here appears among the squabbling doctors as a "nine-days' wonder" when he reminds them how far from the track of Christ and the Apostles they have come. They were abashed for the time, but not repentant.

Let us skip to the closing speech of the mightiest of councils. It was delivered, fittingly, by the emperor, "who was first to bear witness to the correctness of the creed," according to Eusebius in a letter to his own flock, " . . . and he urged everyone to come to the same opinion and sign the statement of dogmas and to agree with each other by signing a statement to which but a single term had been added—the word, homoousion." The emperor then proceeded to explain with much technical language that word (which had been agreed on in committee) and the final verdict that the thing was really incomprehensible. "So in such a manner," Eusebius concludes, "our most wise and most devout (eusebes, blessed) Emperor philosophized; and the Bishops by way of explaining the homoousios prepared the following statement." 4

In the statement that follows occurs an interesting admission: "We are well aware that the Bishops and writers of ancient times when discussing the theology of the Father and the Son never used the word homoousios." To allay the doubts of his flock Eusebius hastens to assure them that "the faith here promulgated . . . we all agreed upon, not without careful examination and according to opinions presented and agreed upon in carefully stated logismoi, and in the presence of the most devout Emperor." In other words, the committee had worked hard. All the trouble has been caused, according to this document "by the use of certain expressions not found in the Scripture. . . . Since the divinely inspired Scriptures never use such terms as 'out of nothing,' or 'that existed which at one time did not exist,' and such like terms; for it did not seem proper (eulogon) to say and teach such things, . . . never in times before have we thought it proper to use these terms." 5 The letter then proceeds to authorize the use of those very terms which it acknowledges to be unknown to the early Christians. Had God so changed his nature that he needed new terms to describe that nature? We left the word logismoi untranslated above, because Paul uses the very same word in 2 Corinthians 10:4—5 when he says that revealed knowledge, the Gnosis, invalidates or confounds all logismoi, that is, calculations of men. Now Eusebius takes comfort in the thought that the Nicene Creed is made up of carefully worded logismoi. You see how the foundations of doctrine had shifted from prophetic revelation to human reason. Latter-day Saints would regard such a change as fatal to the church, and in this they are in good company. For though conventional church histories pass over it in complete silence, the fact is that the early ecumenical councils of the church were viewed by the leading churchmen of the time and the general public alike as a most grave and alarming symptom. Let some of these men explain it in their own words.

Athanasius, one of the star performers at Nicaea, viewed with alarm the councils that immediately followed that one: "What is left to the Catholic church to teach of salvation if now they make investigations into the faith, and set up a present-day authority to give out official interpretations of what has already been said? . . . And why do the so-called clergy dash back and forth trying to find out how they should believe about our Lord Jesus Christ? If they had been believing all along they couldn't possibly be searching now for something they don't have!" Everyone is laughing at the Christian leaders, Athanasius says, and is saying, "These Christians don't know what to think of Christ!" which of course weakens their authority.6 "What is the use of all these synods?" he asks. "In vain do they dash hither and yon under the pretext that synods are necessary to settle important matters of doctrine, for the Holy Scriptures are sufficient for all that."7 (Note where Athanasius finds the court of last appeal—not in any episcopal see, but simply in the scripture.) "We contradict those who were before us, depart from the traditions of our fathers, and think we must hold a synod. Then we are seized by misgivings, lest if we simply come together and agree our diligence will be wasted; so we decide that the synod ought to be divided into two groups, so we can vote; . . . and so we render ineffective what was done at Nicaea under pretext of working for greater simplicity." 8 Could one ask for a better description of the strangely modern state of mind in which the early creeds of Christendom were hammered out—the zeal of the busy, self-important committeemen; the fussy, fuzzy preoccupation with procedure and busy-work; the urge to hold meetings come what may? "All these synods are unnecessary," Athanasius repeats, "and they are unnecessary because we have the Scripture; and if the Scripture is a subject of disagreement in the synods, then we have the writings of the Fathers. The men at Nicaea were not unmindful of this. . . . As for these other synods, they simply don't make sense, and they never get anywhere."9 And again: "Who can call such people Christians, or how can we speak of faith among men who have neither reason nor writings that aren't changing all the time, but to suit every circumstance are being everlastingly altered and reversed?" 10

We turn next to Athanasius' great western contemporary St. Hilary: "It is a thing equally deplorable and dangerous," he writes in a famous passage, "that there are as many creeds as opinions among men, as many doctrines as inclinations, and as many sources of blasphemy as there are faults among us; because we make creeds arbitrarily, and explain them arbitrarily. . . . The homoousion is rejected, and received, and explained away by successive synods. . . . Every year, nay every month, we make new creeds to describe invisible mysteries. We repent of what we have done, we defend those who change their minds, we anathematize those whom we defended. We condemn either the doctrine of others in ourselves, or our own in that of others; and, reciprocally tearing one another to pieces, we have been the cause of each other's ruin." 11 And later to the emperor: "The faith has been corrupted—is reformation possible? The faith is sought after as if it were something not in our possession. The faith has to be written down, as if it were not in our hearts. Having been reborn by faith, we are now being taught the faith just as if our rebirth had been without faith. We learn about Christ after we have been baptized, as if there could be any baptism at all without a knowledge of Christ." 12 Here the synods and creeds are depicted as a declaration of bankruptcy, a clear indication that the faith is lost, a frantic attempt to fill a vacuum. And the filling was to be done with words, the endless talk of the philosophers.

Speaking of an episode of the Council of Nicaea, the historian Sozomen wrote, "It would be hard to say which is the more miraculous, to make a stone speak or to make a philosopher stop speaking."13 But let us hear Hilary: "Since the whole argument is about words, and since the whole controversy has to do with the subject of innovation [i.e., the introduction of philosophical terms not found in the scripture], and since the occasion of the discussion is the presence of certain ambiguities, and since the dispute is about authority, and since we are quarreling about technical questions, and since our problem is to reach a consensus, and since each side is beginning to be anathema to the other, it would seem that hardly anybody belongs to Christ (or is on Christ's side) any more. We are blown about by winds of doctrine, and as we teach we only become more upset, and the more we are taught, the more we go astray." 14 What a commentary on Nicaea! "We avoid believing that of Christ which He told us to believe, so that we might establish a treacherous unity in the false name of peace, and we rebel with new definitions of God against what we falsely call innovations, and in the name of the Scriptures we deceitfully cite things that are not in the Scriptures: changeful, prodigal, impious, changing established things, abolishing accepted doctrine, presuming irreligious things."15 Here Hilary is not denouncing heretics and separatists. Like Athanasius, Eusebius, Basil, Chrysostom, Akakius, Eleusius, Phoebadius, and a host of lesser lights, he is depicting not the folly of the few, but, as he puts it, "the faith of our miserable age. . . . Last year's faith," he asks, "what is the changeful stuff that it contains? First it silenced the homoousion, then it preached it, then it excused it, then it condemned it. And where does that sort of thing lead to? To this, that neither we nor our predecessors were in a position to be sure of preserving any sacred thing intact."16 When men are left to their own resources, without the guidance of living prophets, even the great tradition will not preserve the true faith, for, as Hilary has just noted, men are not able of themselves to preserve that tradition.

We have quoted a few statements—by no means all the pertinent ones—of two of the most respected voices in Christendom, men who were present in person at the great councils of the fourth century in which the Christian creeds as we now have them received their definitive form. How these men miss the voice of the prophets! The fact that the church should hold councils to decide on basic doctrines centuries after Christ and the Apostles are supposed to have given these doctrines to the world greatly disturbs not only them but also, as they repeatedly tell us, the general membership of the church as well. The fact that those councils carry on their deliberations after the manner and in the artificial language of the schools of philosophy distresses them even more. Throughout the Middle Ages the ablest men labored mightily to comprehend and restate in intelligible terms those ever-illusive definitions of God, school succeeding school exactly as in the fourth century. The Reformation, striving to correct administrative abuses and restate moral principles, left the basic doctrines untouched, and to this day the whole Christian world, from the cool recesses of high-church Gothic to the torrid canvas of the revivalist, owes allegiance to the angry and perplexed churchmen of the fourth century. The long centuries have shown, and have shown exhaustively, that "man cannot by searching find out God." Unless dictated by God himself through revelation, any creed must necessarily be a compromise, to establish, as Hilary puts it, a treacherous unity in the false name of peace, and at the price of deliberately sacrificing truth. In the long history of the creeds, time has strikingly vindicated the prophets. If we are to have a creed, the living voice of prophecy alone can prescribe it, and in this, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stands alone.


1. Socrates, Ecclesiastical History I, 5—6, in PG 67:41.

2. Ibid., I, 7, in PG 67:56—57.

3. Ibid., I, 8, in PG 67:64.

4. Ibid., also citing Eusebius' letter, in PG 67:68, 72.

5. Ibid., under heading Symbolum, in PG 67:76.

6. Athanasius, De Synodis, in PG 26:684.

7. Ibid., in PG 26:688.

8. Ibid., in PG 26:689.

9. Ibid.

10. Ibid., in PG 26:760. This is the summary.

11. Hilary, Epistle to Constantine II, 4—5, in PL 10:566—67.

12. Ibid., II, 6, in PL 10:567—68.

13. Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History I, 18, in PG 67:917.

14. Hilary, II, 5, in PL 10:566—67.

15. Ibid., II, 6, in PL 10:568.

16. Ibid., II, 5, in PL 10:567.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Spirit

What is Scripture?

A conversation on Looney's blog made me want to write more about the subject of scripture. What is scripture? How does scripture come to be?

It is very common in the Bible to read the phrase, "that the scripture might be fulfilled." Much of the Old Testament foreshadowed and prophecied what would happen in the New Testament times. Christ Himself often quoted scriptures as He fulfilled them. Here is an example of such a time:

16 ¶ And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. Luke 4:16-21

Being inspired to prophesy is part of what is known as revelation. The Lord reveals something to man that cannot be known by man otherwise. The scriptures are full of prophecies that did indeed come to pass. Isaiah was one of the great prophets that prophesied of the Savior. An example is found in this scripture about the atonement of the Savior:
"5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." Isaiah 53:6
The pattern God set in olden times was to reveal His word, and also to reveal through prophets things that would come to pass. Those prophets would then write those words. Those writings makeup what we today have as scripture. In our church, we believe that the same pattern is followed today. We believe that God speaks through a living prophet, and reveals His word to them. Those revelations are recorded, and added to a book of scripture we call "The Doctrine and Covenants". In addition, we believe that God also spoke to prophets in the ancient Americas, who also recorded those words in a book of scripture called, "The Book of Mormon". The Book of Mormon has this to say about scripture:
“Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?

“And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever;

“For I command all men, both in the east and in the west and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.” (2 Ne. 29:7, 9, 11.)

One of the articles of our faith states: "We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God." (Article of faith 9) As those things are revealed, they are recorded, and become scripture.

The Bible went through much trial to be preserved. Through tireless efforts of some, such as the monks, many were preserved. But some scripture was lost. The Bible speaks of some books that are not present in our modern edition. The index to the LDS scriptures mentions these scriptures that are missing:
"The Bible itself speaks of other authoritative books of scripture including books of Nathan the prophet and of Jehu and Enoch, the prophecy of Ahijah, the visions of Iddo the seer, and even missing epistles of Paul (see 2 Chronicles 9:29; 13:22; 20:34; 1 Corinthians 5:9; Jude 1:14)."

When we think about the many creations of God, and about His ability and power, doesn't it seem limiting to say that His words would only be found in one book of scripture? Why would God speak to men of old, but not men of today? Why would God leave us to our own devices in a day when wickedness is increasing in the world? Some believe that the Bible is enough. But we believe in the "law of witnesses" that was practiced in Bible times: "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." Deut. 19: 15 Additional scripture does not take away from the Bible, but acts as a companion witness that Jesus is the Christ. Modern revelation does not detract from ancient revelation, but affirms that God still directs His people today.

I testify that God continues to speak today, and that scripture continues. Another article of our faith states, "We believe the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly. We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God." (Article of faith 8) We also believe that more scripture could come forth, and that when it does, it will also testify of Jesus Christ. "39 ¶ Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." John 5:39

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Festival of Lights

As we celebrate with Christmas lights, may we remember the one true "light of the world"; Jesus Christ. I hope you enjoy this video spotlighting the Washington D.C. temple.

Christmas Music Video: Do You Have Room For the Savior?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Book of Mormon Sampler: Alma 32: 13,16

Alma 32:13,1613 And now, because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and endureth to the end the same shall be saved.
16 Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Warnings From the Book of Mormon

I have written in the past about the purposes of the Book of Mormon, including to act as a second witness of Jesus Christ, and to clarify doctrine that has been lost, or misconstrued, but now I would like to focus on another very important purpose of the Book of Mormon, which is to give a warning to the inhabitants of the Americas. One of the main messages of the Book of Mormon, and one of the reasons why it was saved for our day, is that those who dwell upon this land can only enjoy the freedoms and blessings of it if they serve God. The Prophet Lehi taught his children: " 9 Wherefore, I, Lehi, have obtained a promise, that inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land of Jerusalem shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of this land; and they shall be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves. And if it so be that they shall keep his commandments they shall be blessed upon the face of this land, and there shall be none to molest them, nor to take away the land of their inheritance; and they shall dwell safely forever.
10 But behold, when the time cometh that they shall dwindle in unbelief, after they have received so great blessings from the hand of the Lord—having a knowledge of the creation of the earth, and all men, knowing the great and marvelous works of the Lord from the creation of the world; having power given them to do all things by faith; having all the commandments from the beginning, and having been brought by his infinite goodness into this precious land of promise—behold, I say, if the day shall come that they will reject the Holy One of Israel, the true Messiah, their Redeemer and their God, behold, the judgments of him that is just shall rest upon them." 2 Nephi 1:9,10 Lehi's descendants were the people who lived in the Americas when it was discovered by the Europeans. History shows that those people's land was taken away from them. The Book of Mormon traces that occurance to their apostasy.

This same promise about the Americas is reiterated in the book of Ether: "9 And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity." Ether 2:9

Who can doubt but that the hand of God brought our forefathers to this country? Columbus himself wrote, "“Our Lord unlocked my mind, sent me upon the sea, and gave me fire for the deed. Those who heard of my emprise [enterprise] called it foolish, mocked me, and laughed. But who can doubt but the Holy Ghost inspired me?”* He also wrote, "“With a hand that could be felt, the Lord opened my mind to the fact that it would be possible to sail and he opened my will to desire to accomplish the project. … This was the fire that burned within me. … Who can doubt that this fire was not merely mine, but also of the Holy Spirit … urging me to press forward?” ( Delno C. West and August Kling, trans., The Libro de las profecĂ­as of Christopher Columbus (1991), 105.) This land is truly a land of promise, and those who live here are obligated to serve God who brought them here.

The Book of Mormon also teaches that those who are brought here are brought by the hand of God. "6 Wherefore, I, Lehi, prophesy according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord." 2 Nephi 1:6 But there are obligations attached to the great blessing of living here. Columbus is a good example of someone who was led here by the hand of the Lord.

As I look around at our nation today, I still see many people who serve God and keep the commandments. But the growing tide of political correctness is now fighting against religion. Christians are criticized for their beliefs, especially with regard to the creation of this world. It is becoming increasingly unpopular in the political and academic arenas to be religious. But if we value this land, and cherish our freedom and prosperity, we must, as a nation return to God. The message of the Book of Mormon is that only by living worthy of the blessings of this free nation through serving God and keeping His commandments, can we prosper.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Book of Mormon Sampler: Mosiah 16:8

Mosiah 16:8
(Note: These verses were written many years before the Savior's birth)

5 But remember that he that persists in his own carnal nature, and goes on in the ways of sin and rebellion against God, remaineth in his fallen state and the devil hath all power over him. Therefore he is as though there was no redemption made, being an enemy to God; and also is the devil an enemy to God.
6 And now if Christ had not come into the world, speaking of things to come as though they had already come, there could have been no redemption.
7 And if Christ had not risen from the dead, or have broken the bands of death that the grave should have no victory, and that death should have no sting, there could have been no resurrection.
8 But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ.

Church Videos

I discovered that the church website has videos available to watch. These include some cartoon type stores of the scriptures. Here is the link to the church videos. The cartoons ones are listed under "scripture stories". You can also watch conference talks through this same link. These would be a good alternative to watching television on Sunday. :)

Mormon Messages: In Sickness and in Health

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Oakland Temple Visitor Center at Christmas

Last night I went with the youth to the Oakland temple grounds to see the Christmas lights. As always, the grounds look beautiful. We also spent some time in the visitor center, including watching a video there. I hope that those of you who live in the Bay area will take the time to visit the Oakland temple this holiday season. Every night there are free musical perfomances. This weekend, Dec. 4,5, there will be a free dance presentation, "Behold the Light". Event schedules are available at the visitor center.
What I loved most about visiting the grounds and visitor center was that it helped bring Christ back in to Christmas for me. The spirit felt on the grounds is wonderful, and I know that you will be glad you went. Please take some time to see one of the videos in the visitor center. One of them is "Luke Chapter 2", a 6 minute video. This is a great family outing, and a great way to start off the Christmas season!

These are images from inside the visitor center. The Christus statue is visible from outside through the large windows of the center. Copies of the Book of Mormon in many different languages are on display inside.

Inside an LDS Temple: Part 2

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Inside a Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

On the outside of every LDS temple are inscribed the words, "House of the Lord. Holiness to the Lord." For us, the temple is the most sacred building of worship. We believe it is the house of the Lord, where the Lord can come to dwell if He desires. We strive to keep ourselves worthy to enter so that no unclean thing detracts from the spirit that is present in the temple. This video shows some footage of an LDS temple, taken before it was dedicated. You will note the baptismal fonts wherein we perform baptisms for the dead.

Reflections of Christ Project by Mark Mabry

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What I Would Like My Athiest Friends to Know

I have several athiest friends that I have talked to about religion over the years. Most of them rely on science to explain every phenomena. In their mind, every religious feeling can be explained away by science. But there are some things I would like them to keep in mind before making a final decision about God. And by the way, most of them say there is no God, but then add, "If I saw God, or a miracle, then maybe I would believe." So I don't think they are so much athiests, as unconverted Christians. So I would like to speak directly to them.

First I would like you to know that I, and many of my friends, have had direct answers to prayer. I have prayed to find an item, and been shown in my mind where to look. And it wasn't in a convenient location, where anyone could see, it was pushed through the crack of the back of a drawer, so that it wasn't visible from the inside of the drawer. But I was shown that to find it, I needed to take the drawer out of the nightstand. I don't say these things to boast, but to show that unless you are willing to believe I am psychic, the only other explanation is God. Just this past Sunday, another friend spoke of a time that he prayed to find something he had been searching for in the lawn. A voice told him to look in his pocket, and that is where he found the item. You might say he was lying, but if the same thing happened to you, (and with faith it could,) you would have to accept that there is no point in lying. Lying doesn't help your own faith grow.

I have had feelings to prompt me to help others who were in need. I didn't know they were in need, but kept feeling they needed my help, so I stopped by. I have a friend who had this same feeling, only to find that the person was contemplating suicide. If this only hapened to me once in my life, I might could explain it away, but it has happened many times.

I have had the experience of being prompted to study or think about a certain subject, only to find that the lesson being taught in church was the same. Again, if this only happened once, I would think it coincidence. But as I have seen it happen again and again, coupled with a feeling from the spirit, I have no doubt that these thoughts came from God.

Most importantly, I have prayed for forgiveness, and have felt the sweet grace of God distilling upon my mind and heart, taking away my guilt, and helping me to change. I know God lives because I have felt Him. My faith has increased through these experiences. If I had seen God, my faith would not be as strong. Even miracles can be explained away. But when you develop a relationship of faith, your belief transcends physical proof.

While the unknown is uncomfortable, and not having proof or data for every thing we see is uncomfortable for some, surely everyone can admit that science isn't perfect. I think if we were shown in vision how the world was created, we would see that science can't even begin to explain it all. The same goes for spiritual experiences.

While I respect your right to disbelieve, I hope that you will think twice before discounting God all together. Just because there is no physical proof, doesn't mean He doesn't exist. And when you die, and find that your spirit still lives, and that God is real, I hope that you will turn to Him, and believe.