Posted in New Testament

Love

do-you-love-me_personalityhackerFrom the Phillips New Testament in Modern English:

If I speak with the eloquence of men and of angels, but have no love, I become no more than blaring brass or crashing cymbal. If I have the gift of foretelling the future and hold in my mind not only all human knowledge but the very secrets of God, and if I also have that absolute faith which can move mountains, but have no love, I amount to nothing at all. If I dispose of all that I possess, yes, even if I give my own body to be burned, but have no love, I achieve precisely nothing.

This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience – it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance.

Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when truth prevails.

Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.

For if there are prophecies they will be fulfilled and done with, if there are “tongues” the need for them will disappear, if there is knowledge it will be swallowed up in truth. For our knowledge is always incomplete and our prophecy is always incomplete, and when the complete comes, that is the end of the incomplete.

When I was a little child I talked and felt and thought like a little child. Now that I am a man my childish speech and feeling and thought have no further significance for me.

At present we are men looking at puzzling reflections in a mirror. The time will come when we shall see reality whole and face to face! At present all I know is a little fraction of the truth, but the time will come when I shall know it as fully as God now knows me!

In this life we have three great lasting qualities – faith, hope and love. But the greatest of them is love.

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Posted in Gospel Doctrine 2015

Gospel Doctrine 2015 – Lesson 16 – I was Blind, Now I See

The ninth chapter of John records the story of a man who had been born blind who received his sight through the Saviour’s miraculous intervention. The story begins when Jesus’ disciples saw the blind man and asked Jesus:

“. . . Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

“Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned. nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

“I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.

“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:2-5).

Jesus then spat on the ground and made clay. He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay and told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. Why did Jesus do this? Elder Bruce R. McConkie commented,

“Healing miracles are performed by the power of faith and in the authority of the priesthood. By doing these physical acts, however, the Master’s apparent purpose was to strengthen the faith of the blind or deaf person, persons who were denied the ability to gain increased assurance and resultant faith by seeing his countenance or hearing his words.” (Doctrinal Commentary on the New Testament 1:320.).

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President Spencer W Kimball offered this insight:

“How simple the process! How gentle the command! How faithful the obedience! How glorious the reward! Strange—we provide pure, sterile tissue for spittle and forbid expectorating even on sidewalks. We bathe with soap, scrub with disinfectants, and scald dishes, pots, and pans with boiling water to kill the germs from the filth of clay. We use for culinary purposes and especially in hospitals and sickrooms only water purified by chemical processes. But here the Master disregarded all our rules of sanitation and prescribed spittle, germ-ridden clay, and impure water from the contaminated pool of Siloam which bathed the sweaty bodies of laborers and the sore bodies of the sick and diseased. Is there healing in mere clay to make eyes see? Is there medicinal value in the spittle to cure infirmities? Are there curative properties in the waters of Siloam to open eyes of congenital blind? The answer is obvious. The miracle was conceived in the womb of faith and born and matured in the act of obedience.

Had the command involved oil instead of spittle, herbs instead of clay, and waters of a pure bubbling spring instead of filthy Siloam, the result would have been the same. But some would have said that oil and herbs and pure water had healed the eyes, but even the untrained must know that these could not cure one. Consequently, only one conclusion could be drawn: The unparalleled miracle was positively the result of faith obedience. But had the sightless one disobeyed any of the phases of the command, he would indubitably have suffered till death with continued blindness. (General Conference October 1954)

The blind man went and washed in the pool and came back seeing.

The neighbours and the Pharisees were astonished and asked the formerly blind man how he had received his sight.

“He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight” (John 9:11).

Some of the Pharisees said he could not be a man of God because he did not keep the Sabbath day. The blind man was asked: “What sayest thou of him?” He answered: “He is a prophet.” The Pharisees had heard the story from others, but now wanted to hear it for themselves; not that they might be convinced of the truth of the thing; but that they might have something to object against Christ with reference to the observation of the sabbath.

“Their Messiah stoops down; he spits on the ground, he makes clay with the spittle; and he anoints the eyes of the blind man with the saliva-filled lump of the dust of the earth…There can be little doubt that he is deliberately violating the [rabbinical] law of the Sabbath in two major respects: (1) he made clay, and (2) he applied a healing remedy to an impaired person, which of itself was forbidden, and in addition there was a specific prohibition against the application of saliva to the eyes on the Sabbath.” (Bruce R McConkie, The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979-1981], 3: 208.)

They then called the parents of the blind man and asked them: “Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? How then doth he now see?” His parents were afraid to answer, so they said, “He is of age; ask him.” And the blind man said, “Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “Thou art his disciple,” and they shut the door of the synagogue against him (see John 9:14-34).

When Jesus heard that the blind man had been cast out, he found him and said:

“. . . Dost thou believe on the Son of God?

“He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?

“And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.

“And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.

“And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind” (John 9:35-39).

Sister Chieko Okazaki drew some lessons from this story:

My sisters, this story has a lesson about service in it for us. First, remember that Jesus and the man didn’t have an appointment. They encountered each other almost by accident. So look for little opportunities in your daily life.

Second, Jesus saw the need of an individual. Sometimes I think we see programs instead of individuals.

Third, Jesus performed the service immediately with just the resources he had—spit and mud and a desire to help. He didn’t transport the man to an exotic medical facility, organize a cornea transplant team, or didn’t make it into a media event. Sometimes we think we can’t serve because we’re not rich enough, not educated enough, not old enough, or not young enough. Remember, if we have the desire to serve, then our bare hands, a little spit, and a little dirt are enough to make a miracle.

And fourth, Jesus didn’t just dump that service on the man and walk away. He gave that man a way to exercise faith and strengthen the faith he had by asking him to participate in his own healing. It was a simple thing—washing in the pool of Siloam. But what if the man had refused? Jesus took that risk and let the man participate in his own miracle. (General Conference, April 1992)

Posted in Gospel Doctrine 2015

Gospel Doctrine 2015 – Lesson 15 – I am the Light of the World

John 8:12 ¶Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

“In this age we are blessed daily by electrical light. It takes a power failure to remind us how much we take that blessing for granted. As Jesus told his followers in the above passage, however, there is never a spiritual power failure when the gospel ‘casts away the veil of unbelief’ and dispels ‘the cloud of darkness,’ thus producing an endless daytime of understanding and rejoicing. The gospel can ‘light up [our] minds,’ so that we can function as illuminated individuals-without interruption. (See Alma 19:6.)” (Elder Neal A Maxwell, A Wonderful Flood of Light [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1990], 53.)

“We can all find ourselves in places of darkness from time to time. We may wander into dark, spiritual caverns when we make foolish choices, admit harmful influences into our lives, or turn away from the light of the gospel to embrace the world just a little longer. It may seem harmless at first—just a little exploring, that’s all. Before we know it, we become separated from the light and left in darkness alone. Why do we remain in darkness when such rescuing light awaits us? Let us bask in the warm and illuminating light provided by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let the Savior’s kindly light lead us one step at a time. Let covenants and commandments keep us safe as we follow the gospel pathway to our heavenly home”. (Virginia U Jensen, General Conference, October 2000.)

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Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

David’s followers called him ‘the lamp of Israel’ but David here acknowledges, that there is a greater light than he. As our light, the Lord shows us the path, gives us comfort as we walk along it and illuminates the obstacles in our way. When we walk in His light, we do not stumble. Enemies are not able to hide in the dark and catch us by surprise.

Isaiah 2:5 O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.

“As you appropriately seek for and apply unto the spirit of revelation, I promise you will “walk in the light of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:5; 2 Nephi 12:5). Sometimes the spirit of revelation will operate immediately and intensely, other times subtly and gradually, and often so delicately you may not even consciously recognize it. But regardless of the pattern whereby this blessing is received, the light it provides will illuminate and enlarge your soul, enlighten your understanding (see Alma 5:7; 32:28), and direct and protect you and your family.” (Elder David A Bednar, General Conference, April 2011)

As this verse comes at the end of a section including the well-known verses about the mountain of the Lord’s house being established in the tops of the mountains, it seems to me that Isaiah is inviting us to walk in the light, or knowledge, provided by the Lord in his holy houses, the temples.

Alma 38:9 And now, my son, I have told you this that ye may learn wisdom, that ye may learn of me that there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ. Behold, he is the life and the light of the world. Behold, he is the word of truth and righteousness.

“That was [Alma’s] first great witness to his sons: that he knew, in the only way men can know—that is, through the Spirit—that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that through him the penitent can be born again.” (Marion G Romney, General Conference, October 1975)

3 Nephi 15:9 Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life.

“The world is full of people who are willing to tell us, “Do as I say.” Surely we have no lack of advice givers on about every subject. But we have so few who are prepared to say, “Do as I do.” And, of course, only One in human history could rightfully and properly make that declaration. History provides many examples of good men and women, but even the best of mortals are flawed in some way or another. None could serve as a perfect model nor as an infallible pattern to follow, however well-intentioned they might be.

Only Christ can be our ideal, our “bright and morning star” (Rev. 22:16). Only he can say without any reservation, “Follow me; learn of me; do the things you have seen me do. Drink of my water and eat of my bread. I am the way, the truth, and the life. I am the law and the light. Look unto me and ye shall live. Love one another as I have loved you” (see Matt. 11:29; Matt. 16:24; John 4:13–14; John 6:35, 51; John 7:37; John 13:34; John 14:6; 3 Ne. 15:9; 3 Ne. 27:21).

My, what a clear and resonant call! What certainty and example in a day of uncertainty and absence of example.” (Howard W Hunter, General Conference, April 1994)

D&C 88:6 He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;

Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.

As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;

As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made;

10 And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.

11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;

12 Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—

13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.

“The sun is 93 million miles from the earth. Imagine the energy that the sun perpetually produces. It takes the light from the sun a little less than eight and a half minutes to get to the earth. What power there is in the sun no mortal can possibly comprehend. Christ’s power is not only in the light of the sun-it is also the power by which it was made. What knowledge must one have to create a sphere as large as the sun and put power into it, not for an hour or a day or one giant explosion, but for time unknown. What creative abilities did this Jesus have who could control the energy of the sun so it would be consistent from day to day, year to year, even millennium to millennium and beyond. As President Harold B. Lee stated, “The sun ripens the smallest bunch of grapes as though it had nothing else to do.” We honor and glorify inventors of laser instruments, spacecrafts, heat-seeking missiles, atomic power facilities, television, and a multitude of other inventions. What are they compared to the sun, the earth, the moon, and the stars?”(Vaughan J Featherstone, The Incomparable Christ: Our Master and Model [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 35 – 36.)

Posted in Gospel Doctrine 2015

Gospel Doctrine 2015 – Lesson 14 – Who is my neighbour?

One of the most interesting analyses of the story of the Good Samaritan is that offered by LDS scholar John Welch. He draws on the teachings of early Christians, such as Origen and Augustine, to argue that the Good Samaritan is more than a simple parable but can be understood as an extended allegory of the plan of salvation. ‘The Good Samaritan: A Type and Shadow of the Plan of Salvation’ can be downloaded from here. You can read a concise version from the Ensign here. Either version is highly recommended.

The picture below is of the ancient road from Jerusalem to Jericho. It is very easy to imagine how desolate and dangerous it would be.

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James E Talmage comments:

 “The road between Jerusalem and Jericho was known to be infested by highway robbers; indeed a section of the thoroughfare was called the Red Path or Bloody Way because of the frequent atrocities committed thereon.”

Elder M Russell Ballard in the October 2001 General Conference said:

Every time I read this parable I am impressed with its power and its simplicity. But have you ever wondered why the Savior chose to make the hero of this story a Samaritan? There was considerable antipathy between the Jews and the Samaritans at the time of Christ. Under normal circumstances, these two groups avoided association with each other. It would still be a good, instructive parable if the man who fell among thieves had been rescued by a brother Jew.

His deliberate use of Jews and Samaritans clearly teaches that we are all neighbors and that we should love, esteem, respect, and serve one another despite our deepest differences—including religious, political, and cultural differences.

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This is a very pertinent message for us today when it seems that in many parts of the world and many parts of our society there is increasing conflict and tension between those of different faiths, ideologies and cultures.

One of the joys of this parable is that it can be understood in so many different ways. Merlin R Lybbert offered another interpretation:

“I presume that most of us have visualized this parable as requiring our aid to an injured person, even a stranger, who is in need because of an injury or sickness. The beauty of the parables of the Lord is that they have many applications, and thus their teaching value is unending. I would like to suggest an application of the principles taught in this parable to a current setting.

“There are many of God’s children who are wounded or sick in spirit. Many once enjoyed fellowship with the body of the Saints, but for one reason or another are now on the roadside. They are the less active among us. Generally, we know who they are and have association with them in various settings, but because they are not physically sick or injured, we too often play the part of the priest or the Levite and walk by ‘on the other side.’

“In this dramatic parable, Jesus contrasted the response of the two respected religionists with that of a despised citizen of Samaria. There is at least a scintilla of similarity here to an elders president, a high priests group leader, a member of the bishopric, or a home teacher, and to the less-active brother or sister who has fallen inactive by the wayside. Perhaps we do not despise them, but we sometimes ignore them or otherwise disregard them. Each of us can be a good Samaritan by dealing compassionately with these neglected brothers and sisters.

“We can bind up their spiritual wounds by rendering needed service, pouring in the soothing oil of friendship and supplying the soul-healing balm of genuine brotherly and sisterly love. We can set them in our own automobiles and accompany them to our homes and places of worship, devote the necessary time and attention to warmly fellowship them. The good Samaritan spent the night with his wounded friend and stayed with him until satisfied that he was on his way to recovery. Similarly, we ought to become close enough to these less-active brothers and sisters to truly become their friends and support and sustain them while they spiritually heal.

“…Most of us are acquainted with someone who is spiritually ill or wounded, lying on the roadside half dead, and who desperately needs the assistance of a good LDS brother or sister-that is, a Latter-day Samaritan. Our prophet has repeatedly reminded us that rescuing the less active is one of our greatest challenges of service.” (“A Latter-day Samaritan,” Ensign, May 1990, 82)

Perhaps the key message from this parable of selfless service is the Saviour’s injunction: ‘Go, and do thou likewise’. Jesus is telling us to follow the Samaritan’s example by serving those we come into contact with, whether they be friend or stranger or enemy. We are to love them whatever their race, religion or political persuasion. We should give generously and freely of our time, talents and resources to those in need, without expectation of return. President Thomas S Monson wrote:

‘When we walk in the steps of that good Samaritan, we walk the pathway that leads to perfection.’

Posted in Gospel Doctrine 2015

Gospel Doctrine 2015 – Lesson 13 – I Will Give Unto Thee The Keys of The Kingdom

“At the Copenhagen Denmark Area Conference held August 3–5,1976, President [Spencer W.] Kimball went to see Thorvaldsen’s beautiful sculpture[s].…After a few spiritual moments admiring The Christus, President Kimball bore his testimony to the caretaker who stood nearby. As he turned to the statue of Peter and pointed to the large set of keys in Peter’s right hand, he proclaimed: ‘The keys of priesthood authority which Peter held as President of the Church I now hold as President of the Church in this dispensation. ’Then he stated to the caretaker, ‘You work every day with Apostles in stone, but today you are in the presence of living Apostles.’He then introduced President N. Eldon Tanner, Elder Thomas S.Monson, and Elder Boyd K. Packer. He presented the caretaker with a Book of Mormon in Danish, and bore his testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith. The caretaker was moved to tears in acknowledgment of the Spirit he felt in the presence of a prophet and Apostles. He acknowledged to me as we left the church, ‘Today I have been in the presence of servants of God.’” (Elder Robert D Hales in Conference Report, Oct. 1981).

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Matthew 16:13¶When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

 “Many profess to be Christians and yet do not believe that Jesus Christ is the literal Son of God, indeed, the eldest son of God the Father. Men are willing to follow some of his teachings but do not recognize the divine, eternal purpose and the significance of his life to all mankind. ‘What think ye of Christ?’ and ‘Whom say ye that I am?’ These were questions asked by Jesus to make men think, so that he might teach them who he was, that they might use their own free agency, come to their own conclusions and commitments, follow him, and gain a testimony that he is the Son of God, our Redeemer.

“Using the sacred scriptures we can know Jesus Christ. He is more than a great teacher; he is the Messiah. He was willing to lay down his life for us; he is the only one who could, as these scriptures testify.” (Robert D Hales, Ensign,May 1979, 77)

14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

Who do people say that Jesus is? From the list of names they suggest it is clear that they recognise that Jesus is someone special but did you notice one notable exception? Something missing from that list?  – THE MESSIAH!

15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

 “Jesus did not want erroneous or careless thinking done by his trusted Twelve. For instance, He did not want them following Him because they thought He was Elias! It reflects the precision that the Lord wants from us intellectually and spiritually-right reasons as well as right answers and right conduct!” (Neal A Maxwell, We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ, 163)

16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

 “What think ye of Christ?” (Matt. 22:42.) However the world ignores or responds to it, this is the reverberating and the great question! (See Alma 34:5–6.) Can we answer with both our lives and our tongues, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God”? (Matt. 16:16.) Until we can, whatever else we say and do will, in the end, make little difference. (Neal A Maxwell, General Conference, October 1988)

17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

How does Peter know?  Because he had received personal revelation! Just as we all can.

 “This great gift of personal revelation is unmistakable; it is direct. It is a more sure communication than the audible spoken word, for that which we hear through mortal ears is sometimes distorted, so often misunderstood. This precious gift of spirit speaking to spirit is infallible and direct and, in the case just cited, came from a loving Heavenly Father to his faithful disciple Peter.” (Robert L Simpson, Conference Report, October 1965, Afternoon Meeting 77.)

18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

“Some have held that revelation alone was the ‘Rock’ referred to. This could not be, because without Christ, revelation would not avail. Some have held it was ‘Christ alone’ that was meant as the ‘Rock’; but this could not be, because without revelation, not even Simon Bar-jona could know that Jesus was ‘The Christ, the Son of the Living God,’ for flesh and blood’ not only did not, but absolutely cannot reveal Christ unto man. The revelation must come from God. Therefore, it may be summed up, that ‘The Christ,’ and ‘Revelation from God’ constitute the ‘Rock’ on which Christ built and will build His Church. . . . I know that both Christ and revelation are essential to the salvation of man, and indispensible to the building up of the Church. Both go together; they are inseparable, and one without the other would not avail.” (Joseph F. Smith, From Prophet to Son: Advice of Joseph F. Smith to His Missionary Sons, compiled by Hyrum M. Smith III and Scott G. Kenney, 87-88.)

 

19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

They already have the Priesthood, now He promises them the keys. This is preparation for what happens at the beginning of chapter 17

 

Posted in Inspirational

The least degree of allowance

A few years ago a large American computer company decided to have some parts manufactured by a Japanese supplier as a trial project.  The American company told the Japanese firm they would accept up to two percent defective products in the 10,000 piece order.  Later, the shipment arrived with 100 percent of the order without defects.  In a separate box was a note, “Sorry, we do not understand American company production practices.  However, this box contains the two percent defective product you wanted.  Sorry for the delay in producing, but these parts had to be made separately which required changing our process in order to make the bad product.  Hope this pleases you.”  (Val D Marks, BYU 2004)

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While standards generally may totter, we of the Church are without excuse if we drift in the same manner. We have standards–sure, tested, and effective. To the extent that we observe them, we shall go forward. To the extent that we neglect them, we shall hinder our own progress and bring embarrassment to the work of the Lord. These standards have come from him. Some of them may appear a little out of date in our society, but this does not detract from their validity nor diminish the virtue of their application. The subtle reasoning of men, no matter how clever, no matter how plausible it may sound, cannot abridge the declared wisdom of God. [Gordon B. Hinckley, CR, April 1970, 21; “Contend Not with Others, But Pursue a Steady Course,” Improvement Era, June 1970, 40; also, Be Thou An Example (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981), 12]

Posted in Inspirational

Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly

A number of years ago the following report appeared on the BBC website:

 ‘Lust has been wrongly branded a vice and should be “reclaimed for humanity” as a life-affirming virtue, a top philosopher reportedly believes. Professor Simon Blackburn of Cambridge University is trying to “rescue” lust, arguing it has been wrongly condemned for centuries, the Sunday Times says. His campaign is part of an Oxford University Press project on the modern relevance of the seven deadly sins. The list of sins was drawn up by Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th Century. OUP has commissioned books on each of the sins – lust, anger, envy, gluttony, sloth, pride and greed. Controlling lust It says Prof Blackburn is aiming to save lust “from the denunciations of old men of the deserts, to deliver it from the pallid and envious confessor and the stocks and pillories of the Puritans, to drag it from the category of sin to that of virtue”. ‘

620x350.20121207.virtue-460x260 This exemplifies a statement that Brother Rodney Turner made:

Our moral environment is far more polluted than our physical environment. It seems as though good and evil are being homogenized out of existence by a generation led by ‘foolish and blind guides.’ What was once whispered in shame is now electronically shouted from the housetops as the famous and the foolish appear on television to parade their sins, like so many medals, before laughing, applauding audiences (Rodney Turner, “To Learn With Joy,” p. 272).

In the Doctrine and Covenants we read: “Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God. … “The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion” (D&C 121:45–46; emphasis added). How can we let virtue garnish our thoughts unceasingly? Preach my Gospel teaches us:

 Virtue originates in our innermost thoughts and desires. It is a pattern of thought and behaviour based on high moral standards. Since the Holy Ghost does not dwell in unclean tabernacles, virtue is prerequisite to receiving the Spirit’s guidance. What you choose to think and do when you are alone and you believe no one is watching is a strong measure of your virtue.

The problem that we have is that impure thoughts can come into our minds without us wanting them to, but as the saying goes – you may not be able to stop a bird from landing on your head but you can stop it from building a nest in your hair. In Proverbs 23:7 we read: ‘For as he athinketh in his bheart, so is he.’ Truman G Madsen wrote:

”Re-read the oft-quoted passages about the thoughts. You will note that it is not the occurrence of ideas in the head but their lodgement in the heart that degrades.. The issue is not so much what thoughts occur in our minds but how we nurture them in our desires.”

 What Are the Promised Blessings of Living a Life of Virtue? The Doctrine and Covenants sets out some wonderful blessings: D&C 121: 45 Let thy abowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let bvirtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy cconfidence wax strong in the dpresence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the edews from heaven. 46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant acompanion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of brighteousness and truth; and thy cdominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever. How wonderful it would be to feel one’s confidence wax strong in the presence of the Lord – to feel at home in his presence because we have lived a life of virtue. James E Talmage said:

Any man may enter the highest degree of the celestial kingdom when his actions have been such that he can feel at home there.

We all want to return home – but we also want to feel ‘at home’ there. Another blessing promised is that ‘the Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion’ – because we won’t do anything to offend the Spirit. And finally, we shall receive a scepter of unchanging righteousness and truth; in other words we will be joint heirs with Christ. To me, regardless of what Professor Blackburn or other so called learned men may say, those promises – the blessings of virtue – are truly ‘life-affirming’.

Posted in Gospel Doctrine 2015

Gospel Doctrine 2015 – Lesson 12 – I am the Bread of Life

The multitude seek signs

Following the feeding of the 5000, Jesus knew that many of his followers were following him only in the hope of another miraculous feast:

John 6:26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.

These followers had witnessed miracles but had not grasped that they were performed by the Messiah. His great sermon on the Bread of Life was a sieve to separate the true followers from those who were insincere.

In verse 30 they seek another sign or miracle (how many signs do they want?):

They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?

This is just the day following the feeding of the 5000 and already the multitude are asking for another sign or miracle. The next verse gives away what they are really after:

Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. (John 6:31)

Here they seem to be not only demanding another miracle but also disparaging the miracle that they had witnessed. They imply that Moses provided bread from heaven while Jesus provided only loaves and fishes and that while Moses fed a whole nation, Jesus only fed a few thousand, Moses provided heavenly bread daily, Jesus on only one or two occasions.

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Why is bread a fitting symbol for Jesus Christ?

The word for ‘bread’ in Hebrew is ‘lehem’ as in Bethlehem which literally means the ‘house of bread’.

The word ‘lehem’ also generally means ‘meat’ or food of any type. So, when Christ declares that He is the Bread of Life, he is saying that we cannot live, either physically or spiritually without him.

John 6: 35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

J Reuben Clarke Jr wrote:

“The bread and water that Christ, our Lord gives, are the spiritual food that can bring salvation and exaltation to every human soul…How blessed are we to have this never dimming, always glowing hope, and the eternal knowledge that belongs to us, to comfort us and to urge us on through life, that we may add to God’s declared work and glory by gaining for ourselves, and for all believers and doers, the priceless destiny of immortality and eternal life.” (Behold the Lamb of God [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 128.)

Will ye also go away?

Jesus’ hard doctrine had the desired effect of sifting his followers:

¶From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? (John 6:66-67)

Jesus, watching them walk away, turned to the Twelve, and said, “Will ye also go away?”

Elder Neil L Anderson said:

In my own mind I have answered that question many times: “Absolutely not! Not me! I will never leave Him! I am here forever!” I know you have answered the same way.

But the question “Will ye also go away?” makes us think about our own vulnerability. Life is no spiritual picnic. The words of the Apostles from another setting come quietly into our mind: “Lord, is it I?”

We enter the waters of baptism with joy and anticipation. The Savior beckons, “Come unto me,” and we respond, taking His name upon us. Not one of us wants this journey to be a brief flirtation with spirituality or even a notable but finite chapter. The road of discipleship is not for the spiritually faint of heart. Jesus said: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

As we follow the Savior, without question there will be challenges that confront us. Approached with faith, these refining experiences bring a deeper conversion of the Savior’s reality. Approached in a worldly way, these same experiences cloud our view and weaken our resolve. Some we love and admire slip from the strait and narrow path and “[walk] no more with him.” (General Conference, Oct 2010)

We see that Peter has grasped what the Saviour is teaching when he replies with this noble declaration:

Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.  And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God  (John 6:68,69).

Ted L Gibbons summed it up:

There are many places to go to eat food, and many places to go to feed the intellect and the heart and the ego. But when we want to feed our souls, when we want the bread of heaven, when we want the words of life, we must stand with Peter and say with Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Posted in Gospel Doctrine 2015

Gospel Doctrine 2015 – Lesson 11 – He Spake Many Things Unto Them in Parables

What is a parable?

A parable is…….

– a setting side by side – a comparison.

– a simple story told to illustrate a spiritual or moral teaching

– an earthly story with a heavenly meaning

 Jesus’ parables in the New Testament

  1. The temple destroyed and then raised – John 2:19-21
  2. A candle under a bushel – Matthew 5:14-16
  3. Houses built on sand or rock – Matthew 7:24-27
  4. Children of the bride chamber – Matthew 9:14-15
  5. New cloth in old garment – Matthew 9:16
  6. New wine in old bottles – Matthew 9:17
  7. New wine and old wine – Luke 5:39
  8. The beam and the mote – Luke 6:39-42
  9. Good tree and corrupt tree – Luke 6:43-44
  10.  Two debtors – Luke 7: 41-43
  11. The sower – Matthew 13:3-8
  12. Seed growing by itself – Mark 4:26-29
  13. Grain of mustard seed – Mark 4:30-32
  14. The good seed and the tares – Matthew 13:24-30
  15. Leaven – Matthew 13:33
  16. Treasure hid in a field – Matthew 13:44
  17. Pearl of great price – Matthew 13:45-46
  18. Gospel net – Matthew 13:47-48
  19. The lost sheep – Luke 15:3-7
  20. The piece of silver – Luke 15:8-10
  21. The prodigal son – Luke 15:11-32
  22. The unforgiving servant – Matthew 18:23-35
  23. The good Samaritan – Luke 10:30-37
  24. The friend at midnight – Luke 11:5-9
  25. Stone for bread – Luke 11:11-13
  26. The unclean spirit – Luke 11:24-26
  27. The rich man – Luke 12:16-21
  28. The watching servants – Luke 12:36-37
  29. The faithful and wise steward – Luke 12:42-48
  30. The barren fig tree – Luke 13:6-9
  31. The shut door – Luke 13:25-27
  32. The good shepherd – John 10:1-5
  33. The wedding feast – Luke 14:7-11
  34. The great supper – Luke 14:16-24
  35. Building a tower – Luke 14:28-30
  36. King going to war – Luke 14:31-33
  37. The unjust steward – Luke 16:1-9
  38. The rich man and Lazarus – Luke 16:19-31
  39. Servant plowing or feeding cattle – Luke 17:7-10
  40. The unjust judge – Luke 18:1-8
  41. The Pharisee and the publican – Luke 18:9-14
  42. Laborers in the vineyard – Matthew 20:1-16
  43. The pounds – Luke 19:11-26
  44. The two sons – Matthew 21:28-31
  45. The wicked husbandmen – Matthew 21:33-41
  46. The marriage of the king’s son – Matthew 22:1-14
  47. The fig tree – Matthew 24:32-33
  48. Man taking a far journey – Mark 13:34-37
  49. Goodman of the house – Matthew 24:42-44
  50. The faithful and the evil servants – Matthew 24:45-51
  51. The 10 virgins – Matthew 25:1-13
  52. The talents – Matthew 25:14-30
  53. The sheep and the goats – Matthew 25:31-33
  54. The vine and the branches – John 15:1-2

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Why did Jesus teach in parables?

Jesus answered this himself in Matthew 13:13-15:

Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.

14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:

15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

 

There seem to be three reasons here:

  • To conceal from those who were not spiritually ready
  • To fulfil prophecy
  • To reveal to those who were ready to hear– an invitation for people to think about it.

 

Interpretation and application

More important than the interpretation of parables is their application.

The following story related by President James E. Faust may be useful in helping to understand the difference between studying the parables and applying them.

A group of religion instructors [were] taking a summer course of the life of the Savior and focusing particularly on the parables.
When the final exam came, . . . the students arrived at the classroom to find a note that the exam would be given in another building across campus. Moreover, the note said, it must be finished within the two-hour time period that was starting almost at that moment.

The students hurried across campus. On the way, they passed a little girl crying over a flat tire on her new bike. An old man hobbled painfully toward the library with a cane in one hand, spilling books from a stack he was trying to manage with the other. On a bench by the union building sat a shabbily dressed, bearded man [in obvious distress].

Rushing into the other classroom, the students were met by the professor, who announced that they had all flunked the final exam.

The only test of whether they understood the Savior’s life and teaching, he said, was how they treated people in need.

Their weeks of study at the feet of a capable professor had taught them a great deal of what Christ had said and done. In their haste to finish the technicalities of the course, however, they failed to recognize the application represented by the three scenes that had been deliberately staged. They had learned the letter but not the spirit. (Cited by President James E. Faust,Ensign, May 1998, p.18, from Church News, 1 October 1988, p16)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Jesus Christ

The parable of the 12 kingdoms or the 12 servants

In our leadership session of Stake Conference we briefly discussed the parable of the 12 kingdoms found in D&C section 88. I have to admit that this was a parable that I had somehow not noticed previously. It intrigued me and I decided that I needed to study it more carefully than the short time in our leadership session allowed.

In case you are as unfamiliar with it as I was (or to refresh your memory!), here it is:

Behold, I will liken these kingdoms unto a man having a field, and he sent forth his servants into the field to dig in the field.

52 And he said unto the first: Go ye and labor in the field, and in the first hour I will come unto you, and ye shall behold the joy of my countenance.

53 And he said unto the second: Go ye also into the field, and in the second hour I will visit you with the joy of my countenance.

54 And also unto the third, saying: I will visit you;

55 And unto the fourth, and so on unto the twelfth.

56 And the lord of the field went unto the first in the first hour, and tarried with him all that hour, and he was made glad with the light of the countenance of his lord.

57 And then he withdrew from the first that he might visit the second also, and the third, and the fourth, and so on unto the twelfth.

58 And thus they all received the light of the countenance of their lord, every man in his hour, and in his time, and in his season—

59 Beginning at the first, and so on unto the last, and from the last unto the first, and from the first unto the last;

60 Every man in his own order, until his hour was finished, even according as his lord had commanded him, that his lord might be glorified in him, and he in his lord, that they all might be glorified.

61 Therefore, unto this parable I will liken all these kingdoms, and the inhabitants thereof—every kingdom in its hour, and in its time, and in its season, even according to the decree which God hath made.

So, that’s the parable but what is it about? What does it mean?
The heading to the section doesn’t help a lot:

51–61, The parable of the man sending his servants into the field and visiting them in turn;

I think our first clue comes in verse 51 where we find ‘these kingdoms’. Which kingdoms?

If we go back to verse 37 we find:

37 And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom.

Grand_Universe

It seems that this is a cosmic vision; a revelation about the universe. We can link it with Moses great vision in Moses chapter 1:

27 And it came to pass, as the voice was still speaking, Moses cast his eyes and beheld the earth, yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the Spirit of God.
28 And he beheld also the inhabitants thereof, and there was not a soul which he beheld not; and he discerned them by the Spirit of God; and their numbers were great, even numberless as the sand upon the sea shore.
29 And he beheld many lands; and each land was called earth, and there were inhabitants on the face thereof.

Elder Orson Pratt confirmed that the kingdoms, or the different parts of the field, in this parable represent other worlds or other creations. I think it is safe to assume that the man or the lord of the field is Jesus Christ. So we have the Lord sending his servants to the worlds that he has created. I take this to mean that the Gospel has been preached to all of God’s creations throughout the Universe. The number 12 is often symbolically associated with the priesthood so we may infer that the priesthood is present in these worlds.

The Lord visits each of the worlds in turn and spends one hour with them and they enjoy the joy of his countenance before he withdraws. Elder Pratt said that the hour in which the servants enjoyed the joy of the master’s countenance represents the Millennium:

Do we not expect that the Lord will, by and by, come and visit us and stay a little while, about a thousand years. Yes, and then we shall be made glad with the joy of the countenance of our Lord. He will be among us, and will be our King, and he will reign as a King of kings and Lord of lords.

He will then withdraw to go to do the same in another kingdom in its turn. President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:

During the millennium, the Savior will spend one thousand years here which is one day according to the Lord. In D&C, Section 88, it is written that the Savior will do the same thing in other worlds, visiting each in its turn. (Answers to Gospel Questions, 3:212)

President John Taylor explained:

That is, each kingdom, or planet, and the inhabitants thereof, were blessed with the visits and presence of their Creator, in their several times and seasons. (Mediation and Atonement, 77)

Elder Pratt then goes on to explain that there will come a time when each of the Lord’s creations have filled the measure of their creation and

Then, from that time henceforth and for ever, there will be no intervening veil between God and his people who are sanctified and glorified, and he will not be under the necessity of withdrawing from one to go and visit another, because they will all be in his presence.

What does this parable have to do with us? Well, it reminds us that we worship a God who is the creator and redeemer of the Universe, who with his infinite atonement is able to extend his mercy to all of his children in all of his worlds. This is the magnificent being who knows and loves each of us individually. This is the omnipotent one in whom we can trust. It also reminds us that there will come a time when our world, in its turn will experience the joy of the countenance of the Lord and that we need to prepare ourselves for that time.