Posted in Book of Mormon

Book of Mormon Christmas Story

Latter-day Saints are blessed to have not only the biblical accounts of Jesus’ birth in Matthew and Luke, but also the account found in the Book of Mormon. We know that early Book of Mormon prophets knew that Jesus would be born precisely 600 years from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem:

 2 Nephi 25:19 For according to the words of the prophets, the Messiah cometh in six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem; and according to the words of the prophets, and also the word of the angel of God, his name shall be Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Nephi knew centuries before it happened that Jesus would be born of Mary, a virgin from Nazareth.

1 Nephi 11:13 –20 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white. 14 And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou? 15 And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins. 16 And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God? 17 And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things. 18 And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh. 19 And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look! 20 And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.

This is more specific than any prophecy that we have in the present Old Testament.

The Nephites looked forward to the coming of Christ throughout the whole of the Book of Mormon.  Right at the beginning of 1 Nephi Nephi speaks of his father’s vision in which Lehi was shown the coming of the Messiah.  Nephi and King Benjamin both saw the Saviour’s birth, ministry and crucifixion.  Abinadi taught that all the prophets who ever prophesied, from the beginning of the world onward testified of the coming of the Messiah.

Samuel-Poster-400wide-202x300

In about 6 BC a brave Lamanite prophet called Samuel was sent among the Nephites to preach repentance and the coming of the Lord. The Nephites were offended that a Lamanite should come and tell them to repent. We do not know Samuel’s background other than that he was a Lamanite but we do know that at this period in Book of Mormon history many Lamanites had been converted.

Helaman 5: 18-19 And it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi did preach unto the Lamanites with such great power and authority, for they had power and authority given unto them that they might speak, and they also had what they should speak given unto them— 19 Therefore they did speak unto the great astonishment of the Lamanites, to the convincing them, insomuch that there were eight thousand of the Lamanites who were in the land of Zarahemla and round about baptized unto repentance, and were convinced of the wickedness of the traditions of their fathers.

300 Lamanites were converted after witnessing Nephi and Lehi miraculously encircled by fire in a Lamanite prison. These 300 converted many more Lamanites through their testimonies.

The Nephites rejected Samuel’s message and he was about to return to his own land when the voice of the Lord instructed him to return and prophesy whatsoever things should come into his heart. Samuel climbed upon the city’s wall and after prophesying of God’s impending judgements, he prophesied of signs and wonders that would occur at the birth and death of the Saviour.

After Samuel finished preaching, those who believed were baptized. Others became even more angry and tried to kill Samuel. When it became apparent that Samuel was protected and could not be harmed many more believed and were baptised.

At the appointed time, which was 600 years from Lehi’s departure from Jerusalem, the sign of Christ’s birth was given.

Imagine the joy the believers must have felt when the prophesied sign of the Lord Jesus Christ’s birth was fulfilled! And yet some would still not believe, even though they had seen the signs of His birth.  President Joseph F. Smith cautioned, “Show me Latter-day Saints who have to feed upon miracles, signs and visions in order to keep them steadfast in the Church, and I will show you members of the Church who are not in good standing before God, and who are walking in slippery paths. It is not by marvelous manifestations unto us that we shall be established in the truth, but it is by humility and faithful obedience to the commandments and laws of God”

How blessed we are to have another testament of Jesus Christ – the Book of Mormon.

According to President Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon is the keystone in our witness of Jesus Christ, who is Himself the cornerstone of everything we do. It bears witness of His reality with power and clarity. Unlike the Bible, which passed through generations of copyists, translators, and corrupt religionists who tampered with the text, the Book of Mormon came from writer to reader in just one inspired step of translation. Therefore, its testimony of the Master is clear, undiluted, and full of power” (“The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign, Nov., 1986, 5).

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Posted in Temples

The Mountain of the Lord

Preston_England_Temple_Free_Image

‘Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.’ (Isaiah 2:3)

The ‘mountain of the Lord’ is a phrase commonly used to refer to the temple. The ancients believed that mountains were holy places where it was easier to commune with God. Some of the most sacred events in the history of the world have occurred on mountains – Moses ‘ experiences with the Lord; the testing of Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah; Peter, James and John’s witnessing of the transfigured Saviour and the crucifixion of the Saviour on Calvary.

In many ancient cultures the temple represented the ‘cosmic mountain’ – the first place on earth to arise from the waters of Chaos and a place where man and gods could meet. Many ancient temples (think of the Aztec temples and the Mesopotamian ziggurats) included steps up which men could ascend and gods descend.

Josephus wrote of Herod’s Temple:

‘The exterior of the building wanted nothing that could astound either mind or eye. For being covered on all sides with massive plates of gold, the sun was no sooner up than it radiated so fiery a flash that persons straining to look at it were compelled to avert their eyes, as from the solar rays. To approaching strangers it appeared from a distance like a snow clad mountain; for all that was not overlaid with gold was of purest white.’ (Josephus, War 5.222-223)

Part of the holiness of a mountain is that it is secluded and reaching its summit requires effort and commitment. Similarly, we might reflect that it takes effort and commitment to qualify to enter the Lord’s house.  Latter-day prophet Spencer W. Kimball wrote:

In our journey toward eternal life, purity must be our constant aim. To walk and talk with God, to serve with God, to follow his example and become as a god, we must attain perfection. In his presence there can be no guile, no wickedness, no transgression. In numerous scriptures he has made it clear that all worldliness, evil and weakness must be dropped before we can ascend unto “the hill of the Lord.” (The Miracle of Forgiveness [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], chap. 2)

 

Posted in Inspirational

The sin of ingratitude

In Section 59 of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord reminds us of His bounty towards us:

Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;

17 Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;

18 Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;

19 Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.

This list of great blessings is followed a by a stark and forceful warning:

21 And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.

There are two ways in which he can offend God and kindle his wrath:

  1. Not acknowledge the blessings he has given us
  2. Break the commandments.

So, ingratitude towards God is ranked alongside disobedience in seriousness. In fact, Brigham Young said: “I do not know of any, excepting the unpardonable sin, that is greater than the sin of ingratitude.” 

 I wonder why it is that the Lord views ingratitude so seriously. Here are some thoughts on this:

  •  President Hinckley said that it was the ‘mark of the narrow, uneducated mind.’ With such a narrow mind we fail to see the Lord’s hand in our lives and think that we have earned all that we have – this leads inexorably to the further sin of pride.
  •  How can we truly worship the Lord if we are not grateful for his blessings?
  •  How can we achieve joy and happiness in this life if we are mean-spirited and ungrateful?
  •  Our prayers will lack authenticity if we only seek blessings and fail to recognise those that we have received.
  •  We cannot be assured that the Lord knows us and loves us if we cannot see his hand in our lives.
  •  It is surely impossible to exercise faith in the Lord if we cannot see what he has already wrought.

One definition of ingratitude is ‘Forgetfulness of or poor return for kindness received.’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). The Lord has given us everything we have including the air we breathe and if (we) should serve him with all (our) whole souls yet (we) would be unprofitable servants (Mosiah 2:21) so on that basis thanksgiving should be a way of life and not a national holiday.

 

Posted in Israel

An inexhaustible supply of water

In my recent posts ‘Return to Eden’ and ‘The Holiest Place in the Universe’ I referred to the prophecy in Ezekiel 47 about healing waters flowing from the Temple in Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. One of my readers asked me what the source of this water could be.

This is an interesting question because there is no water source on the Temple Mount. Vast quantities of water would have been needed during the Temple’s hey day to wash away the blood from the thousands of animal sacrifices. The Temple Mount is made of limestone and contains numerous cisterns but drawing sufficient water from them to meet the Temple’s needs would have been a huge undertaking.

There is only one natural spring in Jerusalem – the Gihon Spring. This spring is located some 600 feet south of the Temple Mount in the ancient City of David, also known as Mount Zion. Some scholars believe that this was the real site of the Temple rather than the traditional site on the Temple Mount and that the Temple Mount was actually the site of a Roman fortress.

Dome of the rock

The Greek Historian Hecateus (4th Century BC) wrote that the Temple was located ‘nearly in the centre of the City of David’.

An Egyptian named  Aristeas is reported to have visited Jerusalem and its Temple in 285 BC. He wrote,  “The Temple faces the east and its back is toward the west. The whole of the floor is paved with stones and slopes down to the appointed places, that water may be conveyed to wash away the blood from the sacrifices, for many thousand beasts are sacrificed there on the feast days. And there is an inexhaustible supply of water, because an abundant natural spring gushes up from within the temple area. There are moreover wonderful and indescribable cisterns underground, as they pointed out to me, at a distance of five furlongs all round the site of the temple, and each of them has countless pipes so that the different streams converge together. And all these were fastened with lead at the bottom and at the sidewalls, and over them a great quantity of plaster had been spread, and every part of the work had been most carefully carried out. There are many openings for water at the base of the altar which are invisible to all except to those who are engaged in the ministration, so that all the blood of the sacrifices which is collected in great quantities is washed away in the twinkling of an eye.” (R.H. Charles-Editor, Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1913).

The Roman historian Tacitus also reported that there was a spring inside the Temple at Jerusalem.

It may be relevant to note that many Biblical passages equate the temple with Mount Zion. Also of interest is D&C 84:32

And the sons of Moses and of Aaron shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, upon Mount Zion in the Lord’s house, whose sons are ye; and also many whom I have called and sent forth to build up my church.

Because Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews driven from the land, it is conceivable that the true location of the Temple could have been lost and the ruins of the Roman fort Antonia mistaken for the Temple ruins.

So where did the Temple really stand? I don’t know  – but is it possible that the Jews and the Muslims are fighting over the wrong patch of land?

Posted in Temples

Back to Eden

Most LDS temples are surrounded by beautiful landscaped grounds. These provide a peaceful atmosphere and a place for reflection. However, they also serve an important symbolic purpose: they remind us that the Garden of Eden was the first place on earth where mankind stood in the presence of God. The Garden of Eden can be regarded as the earth’s first temple.

In Genesis 3:8 we read:

‘And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…’

Perhaps it was a common experience for Adam and Eve before they were cast out of the Garden to commune with God as he walked in the Garden. The same Hebrew word translated as ‘walking ’is used in a number of places in the Old Testament to describe the Lord’s presence in the tabernacle and temple:

‘I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.’ (Leviticus 26:11-12; see also Deuteronomy 23:14 and 2 Samuel 7:6-7)

It seems likely that Solomon’s temple reflected the concept of the Garden of Eden as a temple. The Jewish Encyclopaedia (1906) says that the abode of God was a ‘garden of Eden.’ And in the Book of Jubilees, an ancient Jewish religious work, we read:

‘ …the Garden of Eden is the holy of holies, and the dwelling of the Lord… (Jubilees 8:19)

The prophet Ezekiel in the Old Testament links the Garden of Eden with the temple, ‘the holy mountain of God’:

Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.

Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. (Ezekiel 28:13-14)

The Lord gave very explicit and detailed instructions on the construction and ornamentation of Solomon’s temple which included extensive garden imagery.

‘And the cedar of the house within was carved with knops and open flowers: all was cedar; there was no stone seen.’ (1 Kings 6:18)

‘And he carved all the walls of the house round about with carved figures of cherubims and palm trees and open flowers, within and without.’ (1 Kings 6:29)

‘The two doors also were of olive tree; and he carved upon them carvings of cherubims and palm trees and open flowers, and overlaid them with gold, and spread gold upon the cherubims, and upon the palm trees.’ (1 Kings 6:32)

‘And he carved thereon cherubims and palm trees and open flowers: and covered them with gold fitted upon the carved work.’ (1 Kings 6:35)

Even the robes of the temple priests contained garden symbols:

‘And they made upon the hems of the robe pomegranates of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and twined linen.

And they made bells of pure gold, and put the bells between the pomegranates upon the hem of the robe, round about between the pomegranates;

A bell and a pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate, round about the hem of the robe to minister in; as the Lord commanded Moses.’ (Exodus 39:24-26)

As we enter the temple grounds and enjoy the beauty of the landscaping, we are reminded that it is possible for mankind to be reconciled to God and enjoy his presence as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden before they were cast out.

LDS writer Beverley Campbell says:

‘ We in essence enter Eden when we enter the temple, for there, as in Eden, we are in a place wherein God can dwell, wherein we can make covenants, receive ordinances, and learn all that is necessary to find our way back to our heavenly home.’ (Beverley Campbell, Eve and the Choice Made in Eden).

The pools found near some temples (for example, the Preston and London Temples) bring to mind several scriptures which link water and temples. Joel 3:18 says that ‘a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord’. Ezekiel 47:1-12 presents a vivid image of healing waters flowing from the temple.

S Michael Wilcox writes:

‘The first time we enter a temple, we barely get our feet wet. We are barely introduced to the Lord’s light and love. What a tragedy it is when members of the Church judge the temple to be shallow or not deeply refreshing based on that first experience. Yet all of us know that on a hot summer day, wading even ankle deep in a cool stream brings instant refreshment and a hesitancy to leave the flowing water to return to our shoes. In light of this, it is not difficult to feel Moses’ sense of wonder when he was told to ‘put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.’ (Exodus 3:5.)

Elder Widtsoe cautioned that it is not fair ‘to pass opinion on temple worship after one day’s participation followed by an absence of many years. The work should be repeated several times in quick succession, so that the lessons of the temple may be fastened upon the mind.’ (“Temple Worship,” p. 64.)

Little do the casual waders know that down the river, if they will patiently persist, are life-giving, healing ‘waters to swim in.’ For the water rises each time we wade. Little do they realize the power of those waters to heal the disharmony of our lives, our families, and eventually the world.’ (S. Michael Wilcox, House of Glory: Finding Personal Meaning in the Temple [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 41 – 43)

So, next time you visit an LDS temple and wander through the grounds take time not only to enjoy the beauty of nature but also consider the spiritual messages being taught in that garden setting.

Posted in Israel

The holiest place in the Universe

It appears that the recent killings at a synagogue in Jerusalem have their roots in tensions over the sacred site known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif  and to Jews as the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount is also known in the Bible as Mount Moriah. For Jews, it is the holiest place in the Universe and the place where the temples of Solomon and Herod stood and where the ‘Third Temple ‘ will be built. Jews also believe that it was on this very spot that God created Adam out of the dust of the earth, where Abraham bound Isaac as a sacrificial offering and where Jacob dreamt of a ladder going up to heaven. The Temple was destroyed in 70 AD and since then Jews have prayed three times a day ‘May the Temple be rebuilt speedily and may it be in our time.’

Orthodox Jews praying at the Western Wall
Orthodox Jews praying at the Western Wall

Most orthodox rabbis forbid Jews to set foot on the Temple Mount as there is no way for them to do the ritual purification that is necessary.  However, some groups, like the Temple Institute and the Temple Faithful believe it is their duty to go to the Temple Mount to state their claim for it. They take care to walk only around the perimeter so that they do not walk on any place where the temple stood.

Some Jewish groups, like the Temple Institute, are preparing for the 'Third Temple'
Some Jewish groups, like the Temple Institute, are preparing for the ‘Third Temple’

Muslims believe that Haram al-Sharif is where Mohammed was carried up to heaven by the angel Gabriel  it is the third most holy site in Islam. In the centre of the site is the Dome of The Rock, a Muslim shrine, which was built in 692BC and is one of the oldest Islamic structures in the world. While Israel has controlled Jerusalem since the Six Day War in 1967, the Temple Mount is managed by an Islamic Trust.  The competing claims to the site between Jew and Muslim have led to numerous conflicts over the years. Paul at Dome of the Rock We visited the Temple Mount in 2009. We had to pass through Security to get onto the Temple Mount.  We were told that no smoking, no religious insignia, no prayers, no laughing, no holding hands and no public displays of affection. Visitors to the Temple Mount are closely watched by armed soldiers and the atmosphere was tense. soldiers at the dome   What does Latter-day Saint revelation tell us?  One of the signs that must be accomplished before the Second Coming is that the Jews must rebuild the temple. In 1843 Joseph Smith said,’ Judah must return, Jerusalem must be rebuilt, and the temple, and water come out from under the temple, and the waters of the Dead Sea be healed [see Ezekiel 47:1–9]. It will take some time to rebuild the walls of the city and the temple, etc.; and all this must be done before the Son of Man will make His appearance. ‘ Presidents John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff also both taught that the Jews would rebuild the temple before the Second Coming. D&C 124:36 also implies that a temple were work for the dead is done will be built in Jerusalem “For it is ordained that in Zion and in her stakes and in Jerusalem those places which I have appointed shall be the places for your baptisms for the dead.’ It would seem that this small patch of land in Jerusalem which has been at the centre of so much devotion, controversy and contention for so many centuries will continue to play an important role in the history of mankind. Dome of the rock

Posted in General Conference

Conference word cloud

I love this Wordle of the October 2014 General Conference by Sam Brunson and published on the By Common Consent blog.

full-gc

A Wordle is a ‘word cloud’ showing the prominence of words in a text. The more times a word is used in the text, the bigger the word appears in the word cloud. Sam produced the Wordle using the text of all 4 general sessions, the priesthood session and the women and girls session. It’s a great way of depicting the  focus of Conference. A quick glance shows the importance of Jesus, Christ, God, Lord, Father and Church; closer study reveals other important themes for example, gospel, atonement and example. Which words stand out to you?

Posted in Temples

Temples and symbolism

Why is it important for us to understand symbolism?

Because understanding symbolism is central to an understanding of the gospel.  Indeed Elder Orson F Whitney wrote:

 ‘The Universe is built on symbols, lifting our thoughts from man to God, from earth to heaven, from time to eternity…God teaches with symbols; it is His favourite way of teaching.’  (Orson F Whitney, Latter Day Saint Ideals and Institutions, Improvement Era, 30 August 1927)

Latter-Day Saints are used to interpreting symbolism in the scriptures. We recognise that in scripture words, objects, images and people can represent something beyond their surface meaning and that a symbol may be interpreted on several levels. In particular, we believe that all things testify of Christ.

 ‘And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me.’ (Moses 6:63)

However, despite this, many Saints are less comfortable with ceremonial symbolism. As a rule, apart from baptism and the sacrament, our Church services are not symbolically rich. Many find that the temple ordinances with their many levels of symbolism are, at first, confusing and hard to understand. However, with continued temple attendance and through the Spirit we begin to find meanings within the symbols and this enriches our temple experience:

 ‘In the temple the Spirit is the teacher. It instructs us, most frequently, through the symbols that comprise the endowment. We must be alert and pay attention to all that we see and hear, thus allowing the Spirit to teach us and to bring us understanding. If we go to the temple and just sit, without making an effort to learn, we will miss some of the greatest blessings the temple has to offer.’ (S Michael Wilcox, House of Glory.)

Through study, pondering and the inspiration of the Spirit we can discover and interpret these symbols for ourselves and that this understanding can also enrich our temple experience. The Apostle Paul taught:

 ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.’ (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).

One of the purposes of symbolism is to enable the teaching of spiritual truths in a way that enters the heart of man yet protects them from the ‘natural man’.

The temples of the Old Testament were rich in symbolism. The scriptures tell us that the design and decoration of Solomon’s temple were given by direct revelation from God.  Just as the Lord revealed details about the construction of the Tabernacle to Moses and of Solomon’s temple to David, so Joseph Smith received precise instructions from the Lord about the Nauvoo temple, including the external ornamentation. While discussing some of the details of the building with William Weeks, the temple architect, he stated,

‘I wish you to carry out my designs, I have seen in vision the splendid vision of that building illuminated, and will have it built according to the pattern shown me.” (History of the Church 6:196-97.)

On 15 May 1844 while Josiah Quincey visited the Nauvoo temple site in company with the Prophet, and recorded the following:

 ‘Near the entrance of the temple we passed a workman who was labouring on a huge sun which had been chiselled from the solid rock….’General Smith’, said the man, looking up from his task, ‘is this the face you saw in vision?’ ‘Very near it’, answered the prophet. ‘(Josiah Quincy, Figures of the Past from the Leaves of Old Journals)

Nauvoo

After the laying of the cornerstone for the Salt Lake Temple, Brigham Young said:

‘I scarcely ever say much about revelations, or visions, but suffice it to say, five years ago last July I was here, and saw in Spirit the Temple not ten feet away from where we have laid the Chief Corner Stone. I have not inquired what kind of Temple we should build. Why? Because it was represented before me. I have never looked upon that ground, but the vision of it was there. I see it as plainly as if it were in reality before me.’ (Discourses of Brigham Young, page 410)

slct

So it seems that the overall design and even the details, including the symbols, of the early temples was given by God. For these temples, the use of symbols was not just a matter of ornamentation but also a statement about the symbolic nature of the temple experience.

Posted in Temples

Stairway to Heaven

In our Priesthood Leadership meeting last week, our Stake President spoke to us about the importance of covenants – about making them, keeping them and helping others to make and keep them. President Gordon B Hinckley indicated that many of the problems that we face would be solved if we would just make and keep  covenants:

‘I have had the feeling that if we could just encourage our people to live by three or four covenants everything else would take care of itself. …
The first of these is the covenant of the sacrament, in which we take upon ourselves the name of the Savior and agree to keep His commandments with the promise in His covenant that He will bless us with His spirit. …
Second, the covenant of tithing. … The promise … is that He will stay the destroyer and open the windows of heaven and pour down blessings that there will not be room enough to receive them. …
Three, the covenants of the temple: Sacrifice, the willingness to sacrifice for this the Lord’s work—and inherent in that law of sacrifice is the very essence of the Atonement. … Consecration, which is associated with it, a willingness to give everything, if need be, to help in the on-rolling of this great work. And a covenant of love and loyalty one to another in the bonds of marriage, fidelity, chastity, morality. If our people could only learn to live by these covenants, everything else would take care of itself, I am satisfied.’ (quoted by Bishop Keith B. McMullin, Ensign, May 2001, 61)

JacobsLaddertoHeaven

I am intrigued by the story of Jacob’s dream in Genesis 28:

And Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran. 11 And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. 12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. 13 And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;  14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.  15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.  16 ¶And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. 17 And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. 18 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. 19 And he called the name of that place Beth-el: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first. 20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, 21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God: 22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.

There are indications in this passage that this was a temple experience for Jacob:

  • he describes the place as the house of God and as the gate of heaven
  • he calls it Beth-el (House of God) and
  • he sanctifies it by anointing it with oil

In Genesis 35 he builds an altar there and receives a new name.

Just like Jacob’s ladder, the temple reaches up and bridges the gap between earth and heaven. Elder Marion G. Romney of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote in the Ensign in 1971:

“When Jacob traveled from Beersheba toward Haran, he had a dream in which he saw himself on the earth at the foot of a ladder that reached to heaven where the Lord stood above it. He beheld angels ascending and descending thereon, and Jacob realized that the covenants he made with the Lord there were the rungs on the ladder that he himself would have to climb in order to obtain the promised blessings—blessings that would entitle him to enter heaven and associate with the Lord.’

We are like the angels ascending and descending the ladder in Jacob’s dream: through keeping our covenants we ascend closer to God, when we neglect them we descend the ladder and increase the distance between us and God.  Keeping our covenants will bring us closer to God and his promised blessings including the promise that  ‘I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest.'(Gen 28:15)

Posted in Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day presentation

Today we had a special Remembrance Day presentation following the sacrament. It comprised a selection of readings and music compiled by our Bishop as follows:

Reading 1: Alma 36:1-3, Micah 4:1-4

Recording: Tabernacle Choir, Blades of Grass and Pure White Stones

Words and Music by Philip Naish, Orrin Hatch and Lowell Alexander

Blades of grass and pure white stones

Shelter those who’ve come and gone.

Just below the emerald sod

Are boys who reached the arms of God.

Buried here with dignity

Endless rows for all to see,

Freedom’s seeds in sorrow sown,

‘Neath blades of grass and pure white stones.

Blades of grass and pure white stones

Cover those who left their homes

To rest in fields here, side by side,

Lest we forget their sacrifice.

Buried here with dignity

Endless rows for all to see,

Freedom’s seeds in sorrow sown,

‘Neath blades of grass and pure white stones.

blades

Reading 2: Poem, Rupert Brooke, The Soldier 

Rupert Brooke, like many of the war poets, gave his life during the conflict.  He died on the 23rd April 1915 at Gallipoli, age 27.  This poem, The Soldier has become famous and almost everyone will recognise the first sentence.

If I should die, think only this of me:

That there’s some corner of a foreign field

That is forever England. There shall be

In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;

A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,

Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,

A body of England’s, breathing English air,

Washed by the rivers, blest by the suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,

A pulse in the eternal mind, no less

Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;

Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;

And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,

In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

5685148_f520

Recording: The Regency Choir, I Vow To Thee My Country
Words: Cecil Spring Rice; Music: Gustav Holst

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,

Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;

The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,

That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;

The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,

The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

I heard my country calling, away across the sea,

Across the waste of waters she calls and calls to me.

Her sword is girded at her side, her helmet on her head,

And round her feet are lying the dying and the dead.

I hear the noise of battle, the thunder of her guns,

I haste to thee my mother, a son among thy sons.

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago,

Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;

We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;

Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;

And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,

And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

Reading 3: Poem, Rudyard Kipling, Recessional 

God of our fathers, known of old—

Lord of our far-flung battle line—

Beneath whose awful hand we hold

Dominion over palm and pine—

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies—

The Captains and the Kings depart—

Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,

An humble and a contrite heart.

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Far-called our navies melt away—

On dune and headland sinks the fire—

Lo, all our pomp of yesterday

Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!

Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Reading 4: President Hinckley, from The Times In Which We Live, October 2001 General Conference

The War to End All Wars did not, sadly, put an end to war.  On 11th September 2001 the Twin Towers in New York were destroyed by terrorists, killing nearly 3,000 people.  Four weeks later President Hinckley said the following in General Conference.

Now, all of us know that war, contention, hatred, suffering of the worst kind are not new. The conflict we see today is but another expression of the conflict that began with the War in Heaven. I quote from the book of Revelation:

“And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

“And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

“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.

“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” (Rev. 12:7–10).

That must have been a terrible conflict. The forces of evil were pitted against the forces of good. The great deceiver, the son of the morning, was defeated and banished, and took with him a third of the hosts of heaven.

The book of Moses and the book of Abraham shed further light concerning this great contest. Satan would have taken from man his agency and taken unto himself all credit and honor and glory. Opposed to this was the plan of the Father which the Son said He would fulfill, under which He came to earth and gave His life to atone for the sins of mankind.

From the day of Cain to the present, the adversary has been the great mastermind of the terrible conflicts that have brought so much suffering.

Treachery and terrorism began with him. And they will continue until the Son of God returns to rule and reign with peace and righteousness among the sons and daughters of God.

Through centuries of time, men and women, so very, very many, have lived and died. Some may die in the conflict that lies ahead. To us, and we bear solemn testimony of this, death will not be the end. There is life beyond this as surely as there is life here. Through the great plan which became the very essence of the War in Heaven, men shall go on living . . .

. . . Let us be prayerful. Let us pray for righteousness. Let us pray for the forces of good. Let us reach out to help men and women of goodwill, whatever their religious persuasion and wherever they live. Let us stand firm against evil, both at home and abroad. Let us live worthy of the blessings of heaven, reforming our lives where necessary and looking to Him, the Father of us all. He has said, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10).

Are these perilous times? They are. But there is no need to fear. We can have peace in our hearts and peace in our homes. We can be an influence for good in this world, every one of us.

May the God of heaven, the Almighty, bless us, help us, as we walk our various ways in the uncertain days that lie ahead. May we look to Him with unfailing faith. May we worthily place our reliance on His Beloved Son who is our great Redeemer, whether it be in life or in death.

Congregational Hymn: 100, Nearer My God To Thee (1st 3 verses)

 Reading 5:  Poem, John McCrae, In Flanders Fields

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was a Canadian doctor during World War 1.  On the second of May 1915 he presided at the funeral of his friend, Lieutenant Alex Helmer, who had been killed during the second battle of Ypres. The following day, pondering his friend’s death, he wrote this poem “In Flanders Fields” sitting on the back of a field ambulance near a forward dressing post at Essex Farm.  It became the most popular of all the war poems and was the inspiration for using the poppy as a symbol of remembrance.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

in_flanders_fields

Reading 6: President Hinckley, extract from War and Peace, April 2003 General Conference

On 20th March 2003 a coalition army invaded Iraq and began what is now known as the Iraq War.  Two weeks later in the April General Conference President Hinckley said the following.

My brethren and sisters, last Sunday as I sat in my study thinking of what I might say on this occasion, I received a phone call telling me that Staff Sergeant James W. Cawley of the U.S. Marines had been killed somewhere in Iraq. He was 41 years of age, leaving behind a wife and two small children.

Twenty years ago Elder Cawley was a missionary of the Church in Japan. Like so many others, he had grown up in the Church, had played as a schoolboy, had passed the sacrament as a deacon, and had been found worthy to serve a mission, to teach the gospel of peace to the people of Japan. He returned home, served in the Marines, married, became a policeman, and was then recalled to active military duty, to which he responded without hesitation.

His life, his mission, his military service, his death seem to represent the contradictions of the peace of the gospel and the tides of war.

And so I venture to say something about the war and the gospel we teach. I spoke of this somewhat in our October conference of 2001. When I came to this pulpit at that time, the war against terrorism had just begun. The present war is really an outgrowth and continuation of that conflict . . .

. . . Many of our own Church members have been involved in this conflict. We have seen on television and in the press tearful children clinging to their fathers in uniform, going to the battlefront.

In a touching letter I received just this week, a mother wrote of her Marine son who is serving for the second time in a Middle Eastern war. She says that at the time of his first deployment, “he came home on leave and asked me to go for a walk. … He had his arm around me and he told me about going to war. He … said, ‘Mom, I have to go so you and the family can be free, free to worship as you please. … And if it costs me my life … then giving my life is worth it.’”He is now there again and has written to his family recently, saying, “I am proud to be here serving my nation and our way of life. … I feel a lot safer knowing our Heavenly Father is with me.”

There are other mothers, innocent civilians, who cling to their children with fear and look heavenward with desperate pleadings as the earth shakes beneath their feet and deadly rockets scream through the dark sky . . .

. . . Even when the armaments of war ring out in deathly serenade and darkness and hatred reign in the hearts of some, there stands immovable, reassuring, comforting, and with great outreaching love the quiet figure of the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world. We can proclaim with Paul:

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

“Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39).

This life is but a chapter in the eternal plan of our Father. It is full of conflict and seeming incongruities. Some die young. Some live to old age. We cannot explain it. But we accept it with the certain knowledge that through the atoning sacrifice of our Lord we shall all go on living, and this with the comforting assurance of His immeasurable love.

He has said, “Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me” (D&C 19:23).

And there, my brothers and sisters, we rest our faith. Regardless of the circumstances, we have the comfort and peace of Christ our Savior, our Redeemer, the living Son of the living God.

Congregational Hymn: 97, Lead Kindly Light

 Reading 7: Poem, Laurence Binyon, For The Fallen 

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,

Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.

They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,

They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

Concluding Remarks

Two minutes silence (at 11:00 a.m.)

 Recording: Karl Jenkins, Benedictus, from the Armed Man