Posted in Gospel Doctrine 2015, Jesus Christ, New Testament

Gospel Doctrine 2015 – Lesson 27 – “He Is Not Here, for He Is Risen”

  1. Mary Magdalene and other women are witnesses of the resurrected Lord.

Matthew 28: 1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:

4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

‘The order of facts appears to have been as follows:—(1) Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, the mother of James the Little, watched the burial just before the Sabbath began on the evening of the day of the crucifixion. (2.) They stayed at home during the twenty-four hours of the Sabbath. (3.) On the evening of that day (the Sabbath-rest being over) they bought spices for the embalmment. (4.) At earliest dawn, say about 4 A.M., they set out to make their way to the sepulchre, and they reached it when the sun had risen.’ (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)

‘While the women were making these preparations for embalming the body of Jesus, he arose from the dead; his resurrection being preceded by the descent of an angel, whose appearance at the sepulchre was ushered in with a great earthquake and probably also a storm, the word σεισμος, here rendered earthquake, signifying any shaking, whether in the earth, air, or sea.’ (Benson Commentary)

Matthew 28: 5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.

He is not here2

“Here was the greatest miracle of human history. Earlier he had told them, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’ (John 11:25.) But they had not understood. Now they knew. He had died in misery and pain and loneliness. Now, on the third day, he arose in power and beauty and life, ‘the firstfruits of them that slept,’ the assurance for men of all ages that ‘as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.’ (1 Corinthians 15:20, 22.)

“On Calvary he was the dying Jesus. From the tomb he emerged the living Christ. The cross had been the bitter fruit of Judas’s betrayal, the summary of Peter’s denial. The empty tomb now became the testimony of His divinity, the assurance of eternal life, the answer to Job’s unanswered question: ‘If a man die, shall he live again?’ (Job 14:14.)” (Gordon B Hinckley, Be Thou an Example [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], 88.)

Matthew 28:8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.

‘With fear and great joy’ – what a natural combination of emotions at what they had just witnessed!

  1. Two disciples on the road to Emmaus are witnesses of the resurrected Lord.

Luke 24: 13 ¶And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs.

14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened.

15 And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.

16 But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.

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“Sometimes in daily life our eyes are ‘holden’ (see Luke 24:16). Things to which we are so close and which should be obvious enough are, ironically, often unclear to us. We can’t always make out what lies just two steps ahead. Instead, we are to trust the Lord and walk by faith in such circumstances, taking the next first step, until the wisdom of the Lord indicates otherwise. Later we will see how we stared directly at the obvious but still could not see it. Besides, having received so many blessings involving one divine ‘yes’ after another, we should not be surprised if there is an occasional, divine ‘no,’ if only because of divine timing.

“If everything in one’s immediate context were constantly clear, God’s plan would not work. Hard choices as well as passing through periodic mists of darkness are needed in order to maintain life’s basic reality-that we are to overcome by faith.” (Neal A Maxwell, Lord, Increase Our Faith [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1994], 110.)

17 And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?

18 And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?

One of the disciples was called Cleopas. Some scholars have suggested that the other was Luke himself.

“A stranger, Jesus himself, seemingly but another Passover pilgrim, draws nigh and walks with them. They feel some irritation, perhaps are a little peevish, that this unknown one should intrude himself on a conversation that is both personal and sacred…There is surprise and skepticism in the voice of Cleopas as he turns to speak to the uninvited intruder. How could anyone have been in Jerusalem this week and been unaware of the tumult and trials and crucifixion of the most renowned person in all Palestine?” (Bruce R McConkie, The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979-1981], 4: 276.)

Luke 24:25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:

‘O fools – The word “fool” sometimes is a term of reproach denoting “wickedness.” In this sense we are forbidden to employ it in addressing another, Matthew 5:22. That, however, is a different word in the Greek from the one which occurs here. The one there used implies contempt, but the one employed in this place denotes “weakness or dulness.” He reproached them for not seeing what he had himself so clearly predicted, and what had been foretold by the prophets. The word used in the original does not imply as much “reproach” as the word “fool” does among us. It was not an expression of “contempt;” it was an expression denoting merely that they were “thoughtless,” and that they did not properly “attend to” the evidence that he must die and rise again.’ (Barnes Notes on the Bible)

26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?

This means that Christ’s suffering was necessary for him to enter into his glory.

27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

All of the scriptures and prophets testify of Jesus Christ.

Luke 24: 32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?

“They sensed it not, but they had the testimony of the spirit before there came to them the witness of the eyes.” (J Reuben Clark Jr, On the Way to Immortality and Eternal Life [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1949], 72.)

  1. The Apostles are witnesses of the resurrected Lord.

Luke 24: 36 ¶And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.

‘It is very significant that when Jesus came forth from the tomb and appeared to his disciples, his first greeting was, “Peace be unto you.” Peace—not passion, not personal possessions, not personal accomplishments nor happiness—is one of the greatest blessings a man can receive. Our trust and our relationship with our Heavenly Father should be one similar to that of the little blind girl and her earthly father. When sorrow, tragedy, and heartbreaks occur in our lives, wouldn’t it be comforting if when the whisperings of God say, “Do you know why this has happened to you?” we could have the peace of mind to answer “No, but you do.”’ (Marvin J Ashton, General Conference, October 1985)

Luke 24:38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?

‘Thoughts’ means ‘doubts or suspicions’

39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.

“Those who call themselves modernists deny the fact that Jesus rose from the tomb with the same body that he laid down, and many deny the fact that he was indeed resurrected. Latter-day Saints believe in the literal resurrection of Christ in precisely the same manner described by the writers of the New Testament. From their record we learn that the same body of flesh and bones that was taken from the cross and laid in the tomb did come forth to live again.” (Howard W Hunter, Conference Report, October 1968, Afternoon Meeting 139.)

40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.

Luke was a physician – he knew a physical body when he saw one!

41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?

‘Though they had been prepared for the belief of resurrection, by the report of the women, the relation of Simon Peter, and the account of the two disciples that came from Emmaus; yet such was the joy they were transported with, upon the evidence of it, the news was so good, and the favour and benefit so great, that they could scarcely believe their own senses of seeing and feeling.’ (Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible)

42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.

43 And he took it, and did eat before them.

“To further assure them that He was no shadowy form, no immaterial being of tenuous substance, but a living Personage with bodily organs internal as well as outward, He asked, ‘Have ye here any meat?’ They gave Him a piece of broiled fish and other food, which He took ‘and did eat before them.'” (James E Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 638)

John 20:24 ¶But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

‘No doubt Thomas had been deeply shaken by the events of the past days. His love and devotion to the Master cannot be questioned, but the flame of faith had burned low and had grown cold. The tomb was empty, this he knew. Mary Magdalene and the other women and Peter and John had been there. Jesus later appeared to Mary in the garden, and she told the disciples of this event as she had been commanded. That very day the Risen Master had walked with Cleopas and his companion down the road to Emmaus and had also appeared to Simon Peter in Jerusalem. In Spite of these evidences, Thomas was skeptical, and he said to the disciples:

“. . . Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe”

This statement of Thomas has caused him to be remembered down through the ages and his name placed with the skeptics, the doubters, and the fainthearted, with those who will not believe until they see. In a sense, Thomas represents the spirit of our age. He would not be satisfied with anything he could not see, even though he had been with the Master and knew his teachings concerning faith and doubt. Jesus had said:

“. . . O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”

“. . . Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?”

“. . . If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth”

“. . . According to your faith be it unto you”

All of these things Thomas well knew, but his personal faith had been dimmed by a great disappointment. Faith does not take precedence over doubt when one must feel or see in order to believe.

Thomas was not willing to stand on faith. He wanted positive evidence of the facts. He wanted knowledge, not faith. Knowledge is related to the past because our experiences of the past are those things which give us knowledge, but faith is related to the future—to the unknown where we have not yet walked.

We think of Thomas as one who had traveled and talked with the Master, and who had been chosen by him. Inwardly we wish that Thomas could have turned toward the future with confidence in the things which were not then visible, instead of saying in effect, “To see is to believe.”

It must have saddened the heart of the Savior, but this had happened before. Within the past few days Judas had betrayed him, Peter had denied him, and now Thomas doubted him. (Howard W Hunter, General Conference, October 1962)

John 20:26 ¶And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

‘After 8 days’ ie on Sunday

John 20: 27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

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“To all within the sound of my voice who may have doubts, I repeat the words given Thomas as he felt the wounded hands of the Lord: ‘Be not faithless, but believing.’ Believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the greatest figure of time and eternity. Believe that his matchless life reached back before the world was formed. Believe that he was the Creator of the earth on which we live. Believe that he was Jehovah of the Old Testament, that he was the Messiah of the New Testament, that he died and was resurrected, that he visited these western continents and taught the people here, that he ushered in this final gospel dispensation, and that he lives, the living Son of the living God, our Savior and our Redeemer.” (Gordon B Hinckley, “Be Not Faithless,” Ensign, May 1978, 59)

John 20: 28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

‘The blessedness of Thomas is not denied, but the rare and richly-favoured lot of those is specially declared, who believe without seeing.’ (Bengel’s Gnomen)

  1. Some of the Apostles see Jesus again at the Sea of Tiberias (Sea of Galilee).

John 21:4 But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.

5 Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.

6 And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him,  for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.

‘But, alas, the fishing wasn’t very good. Their first night back on the lake, they caught nothing-not a single fish. With the first rays of dawn, they disappointedly turned toward the shore, where they saw in the distance a figure who called out to them, “Children, have you caught anything?” Glumly these Apostles-turned-again-fishermen gave the answer no fisherman wants to give. “We have caught nothing,” they muttered, and to add insult to injury, they were being called “children.”

“Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find,” the stranger calls out-and with those simple words, recognition begins to flood over them. Just three years earlier these very men had been fishing on this very sea. On that occasion too they had “toiled all the night, and [had] taken nothing,” the scripture says. But a fellow Galilean on the shore had called out to them to let down their nets, and they drew “a great multitude of fishes,” enough that their nets broke, the catch filling two boats so heavily they had begun to sink.

Now it was happening again. These “children,” as they were rightly called, eagerly lowered their net, and “they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.”

John said the obvious: “It is the Lord.” And over the edge of the boat, the irrepressible Peter leaped.’ (Jeffrey R Holland, Ensign, November 2012, 83-84)

John 21: 15 ¶So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

shepherd

‘This is the call of Christ to every Christian today: “Feed my lambs. … Feed my sheep”—share my gospel with young and old, lifting, blessing, comforting, encouraging, and building them, especially those who think and believe differently than we do. We feed His lambs in our homes by how we live the gospel: keeping the commandments, praying, studying the scriptures, and emulating His love. We feed His sheep in the Church as we serve in priesthood quorums and auxiliary organizations. And we feed His sheep throughout the world by being good Christian neighbors, practicing the pure religion of visiting and serving the widows, the fatherless, the poor, and all who are in need.’ (Robert D Hales, General Conference, October 1992)

Posted in Joseph Smith, LDS Church History

Martyrs

This week marks the anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith at Carthage Jail.

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On the morning of June 24, 1844, the Prophet Joseph Smith along with several associates including his brother Hyrum, set out for Carthage from Nauvoo. Pausing near the temple Joseph said, “This is the loveliest place and the best people under the heavens; little do they know the trials that await them.” A little later he said: “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men. I shall die innocent, and it shall yet be said of me—he was murdered in cold blood.”

When they arrived at Carthage, Joseph and his companions were arrested and imprisoned in Carthage Jail. On 27 June Joseph wrote to Emma: “I am very much resigned to my lot, knowing I am justified, and have done the best that could be done. Give my love to the children … and all who inquire after me. … May God bless you all”

Later that day, a mob burst into the Jail and killed Joseph and Hyrum.

The LDS Guide to the Scriptures defines a martyr as ‘A person who gives his life rather than forsake Christ, the gospel, or his righteous beliefs or principles.’

Other latter-day martyrs include David W Patten, Rafael Monroy, Vicente Morales and countless Saints who died in persecutions such as in Jackson County, Nauvoo, and Haun’s Mill as well as those who died crossing the plains to their promised land.

The word martyr comes from the Greek ‘martur’ meaning ‘witness’. Each week s we partake of the Sacrament we covenant to be ‘witnesses’. Perhaps we need to consider more fully what that word means and what we covenant to be.

‘For most of us, however, what is required is not to die for the Church but to live for it. For many, living a Christlike life every day may be even more difficult than laying down one’s life.’ (James E Faust, General Conference, October 2006)

Posted in Inspirational

5 ways to wellbeing

I recently attended a conference where one of the speakers was Nic Marks of the New Economics Foundation who, a few years ago, came up with the Five Ways of Wellbeing. These are 5 actions that can increase wellbeing or happiness. They have been taken up by governments and other organisations around the world. And they are:

Connect: because social relationships are the strongest part really of happiness and wellbeing

Be active

Take notice: noticing what’s going on around us and within us

Keep learning: learning through your life course

Give: volunteering, generosity, altruism are all really good for our own wellbeing as well as other people’s.

It struck me that as members of the Church, we didn’t need the New Economics Foundation to tell us about this.

Connect…

With the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work, school or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day. (New Economics Foundation)

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‘Remember you are part of a team that is pulling for you. You are connected by unseen tethers of love to people who pray and pull for you daily, even though those ties are not as visible as the ropes of the mountain climbers. Your teammates even extend into the world beyond. Your ancestors are concerned for you and supporting you. Relatives, teachers in school and in church, and good friends always try to lift. If you ever have acquaintances who are trying to pull you with them on their downward drift, know that these people are not truly your friends at all. Real friends never pull you down; they always lift!’ (Russell M Nelson, New Era, May 1996)

‘In our day it is easy to merely pretend to spend time with others. With the click of a mouse, we can “connect” with thousands of “friends” without ever having to face a single one of them. Technology can be a wonderful thing, and it is very useful when we cannot be near our loved ones. My wife and I live far away from precious family members; we know how that is. However, I believe that we are not headed in the right direction, individually and as a society, when we connect with family or friends mostly by reposting humorous pictures, forwarding trivial things, or linking our loved ones to sites on the Internet. I suppose there is a place for this kind of activity, but how much time are we willing to spend on it? If we fail to give our best personal self and undivided time to those who are truly important to us, one day we will regret it.’ (Dieter F Uchtdorf, General Conference, October 2012)

Proverbs 17:17 A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

David O. McKay said:

Among life’s sweetest blessings is fellowship with men and women whose ideals and aspirations are high and noble. Next to a sense of a kinship with God comes the helpfulness, encouragement, and inspiration of friends. Friendship is a sacred possession. . . . One of the principal reasons which the Lord had for establishing His Church is to give all persons high and low, rich and poor, strong and feeble an opportunity to associate with their fellowmen in an atmosphere of uplifting, religious fellowship. This [association] may be found in Priesthood quorums, Auxiliaries, Sacrament meetings. He who neglects these opportunities, who fails to take advantage of them, to that extent starves his own soul.

Be active…

Go for a walk or run. Step outside. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance. Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy; one that suits your level of mobility and fitness. (New Economics Foundation)

A group of young people jumping into the air. All people are individual objects. Vector illustration.

 

‘…physical fitness is vitally important for effectiveness in the following areas: physical and emotional endurance; good health to assure vitality, vigor, and enthusiasm for your work; the ability to relate favorably with your children and other youth and their energies and ideals; and the ability to live safely and effectively with stress and tension.’ (Clarence Robison, Ensign, September 1972)

“The healthy man, who takes care of his physical being, has strength and vitality; his temple is a fit place for his spirit to reside. … It is necessary, therefore, to care for our physical bodies, and observe the laws of physical health and happiness.” (David O. McKay, “The Whole Man,” Era, vol. 55 (April 1952), p. 221.)

Take notice…

Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are on a train, eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you. (New Economics Foundation)

pay-attention

‘I am asking that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I am suggesting that as we go through life we “accentuate the positive.” I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort.’ (Gordon B Hinckley, Ensign, April 1986)

‘The miracle of the changing seasons, with the reawakening and rebirth in nature, inspires feelings of love and reverence within us for God’s marvelous, creative handiwork.’ (M Russell Ballard, General Conference, April 1988)

Alma 30:44 But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.

Keep Learning…

Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Take on a different responsibility at work. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident, as well as being fun to do.

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“We are in the school [of mortality] and keep learning, and we do not expect to cease learning while we live on earth; and when we pass through the veil, we expect still to continue to learn and increase our fund of information. That may appear a strange idea to some; but it is for the plain and simple reason that we are not capacitated to receive all knowledge at once. We must therefore receive a little here and a little there.” (Brigham Young)

‘Every individual has creative capacity. The satisfaction and growth creativity generates is intended for each of us, not just for the most gifted. To “try it” takes courage. ….As you experiment with new things you will discover a great deal about yourself that likely won’t be revealed any other way. “Try it” and you may open up a lifetime of joy and rewarding accomplishment.’ (Richard G Scott, New Era, August 1995)

Give…

Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and will create connections with the people around you. (New Economics Foundation)

give

‘One of the sure signs of a person who has accepted the gift of the Savior’s atonement is a willingness to give. The process of cleansing our lives seems to make us more sensitive, more generous, more pleased to share what means so much to us.’ (Henry B Eyring, Ensign, December 1982)

“The Prophet Joseph said at one time that one of the greatest sins of which the Latter-day Saints would be guilty is the sin of ingratitude. I presume most of us have not thought of that as a great sin. There is a great tendency for us in our prayers and in our pleadings with the Lord to ask for additional blessings. But sometimes I feel we need to devote more of our prayers to expressions of gratitude and thanksgiving for blessings already received. We enjoy so much.” (Ezra Taft Benson, God,Family, Country,Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974, p. 199.)

‘If you would find happiness and joy, lose your life in some noble cause. A worthy purpose must be at the center of every worthy life.’ (Jack H Goaslind, General Conference, April 1986)

Posted in Gospel Doctrine 2015

Gospel Doctrine 2015 – Lesson 26 – “To This End Was I Born”

Jesus is betrayed, arrested, and accused of blasphemy; Peter denies Jesus three times.

John 18:10 Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.

This illustrates Peter’s impulsive nature as well as his desire to protect Jesus.

11 Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?

12 Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him,

Peter’s act was in opposition to what Jesus knew his Father’s will to be.

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A ‘band’ of soldiers was a cohort or tenth of a legion. This would have been 400-600 men. They would have been stationed at the Tower of Antonia to keep the peace in Jerusalem. The ‘officers of the Jews’ were the ‘temple police’ who protected the Temple Mount. The garden of Gethsemane must have been full of soldiers and temple police.

Mark 14: 60 And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest thou nothing? What is it which these witness against thee?

‘The impressive silence, which our Lord preserved, while false witnesses were being sought against Him was galling to the pride of Caiaphas, who saw that nothing remained but to force Him, if possible, to criminate Himself. Standing up, therefore, in the midst (a graphic touch which we owe to St Mark alone), he adjured Him in the most solemn manner possible to declare whether He was “the Malcha Meschicha”—the King Messiah, the Son of the Blessed.’ (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)

61 But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou theChrist, the Son of the Blessed?

62 And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

63 Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses?

‘None but people of rank wore two tunics. The Greek verb here rendered “rent” implies violent dramatic action. The Jewish tunic was open under the chin, and large enough to receive the head, so that it could easily be placed over the shoulders, by inserting the head. When the wearer wished to give this sign of indignation or grief, he would seize the garment at this opening with both hands, and violently tear it asunder down to the waist. But it was unlawful for the high priest to do this in a private grief. Some of the Fathers think that by this action Caiaphas involuntarily typified the rending of the priesthood from himself and from the Jewish nation.’ (Pulpit Commentary)

‘Thus one of the greatest ironies in history occurred, for Jesus, the divine Son of God, the one person who could not have been guilty of falsely assuming the power of God, was found guilty of blasphemy! Also, the only person since the fall of Adam who had power over physical death was condemned to die!’ (Daniel L Ludlow, The Greatest Week in History,  Ensign, April 1972)

Matthew 26:56 But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.

‘Thus, of divine necessity, the supporting circle around Jesus gets smaller and smaller and smaller’ (Jeffrey R Holland, General Conference, April 2009)

Matthew 26:58 But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end.

‘Peter followed afar off – By this he evinced two things:

  1. Real attachment to his Master; a desire to be near him and to witness his trial.
  2. Fear respecting his personal safety. He therefore kept so far off as to be out of danger, and yet so near as that he might witness the transactions respecting his Master.

‘Perhaps he expected to be lost and unobserved in the crowd. Many, in this, imitate Peter. They are afraid to follow the Saviour closely. They fear danger, ridicule, or persecution. They “follow him,” but it is at a great distance – so far that it is difficult to discern that they are in the train, and are his friends at all. Religion requires us to be near to Christ. We may measure our piety by our desire to be with him, to be like him, and by our willingness to follow him always – through trials, contempt, persecution, and death. John says that another disciple went with Peter. By that other disciple it is commonly supposed, as he did not mention his name, that he meant himself. He was acquainted with the high priest, and went immediately into the hall.’ (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)

Matthew 26: 69 ¶Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.

70 But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.

71 And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.

72 And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.

73 And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.

74 Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.

75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.

“To observers in Jerusalem of a former day, Peter may have appeared to be a small, useless weapon as he denied Christ thrice near the high priest’s palace (see Matt. 26:69-75). But when the converted Peter stood before the Jews on the day of Pentecost, he testified with the conviction and power of a gleaming sword, placing himself in the hands of God and winning the souls of three thousand people (see Acts 2).

“The mettle of the man Peter did not come automatically and without effort. Peter was subjected to trials and temptations and all else commonly referred to as the refiner’s fire. The heat of opposition did not consume him; it served only to burn out the impurities and weaknesses and leave refined and pure metal. Peter emerged from the furnace of affliction as a polished, strong sword of righteousness. His iron strength of character carried him through to the end of his mission.

“After the day of Pentecost, Peter was a man with a cutting edge. He exhibited a sharpness of mind that enabled him to bear witness of the risen Christ. It is recorded that on one occasion his words ‘cut to the heart’ (Acts 5:33) those who sought to slay him. Undoubtedly such sharpness of mind was the result of much study, fasting, and prayer.” (Carlos E. Asay, The Seven M’s of Missionary Service: Proclaiming the Gospel as a Member or Full-time Missionary, chap. 4)

Jesus is sentenced to be crucified.

Luke 23:6 When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilæan.

7 And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time.

Pilate seizes on the mention of Galilee as an opportunity to shift the problem to someone else.

The Herod in question was Herod Antipas, a son of Herod the Great. This was the same Herod that put John the Baptist to death.

8 ¶And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him.

9 Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing.

‘A murderer of the Prophets, who was living in open and flagrant incest, and who had no higher motive than mean curiosity, deserved no answer. Our Lord used of Antipas the only purely contemptuous word which He is ever recorded to have uttered (Luke 13:32).’ (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)

Luke 23:11 And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate.

‘A gorgeous robe – A white or shining robe, for this is the meaning of the original. The Roman princes wore “purple” robes, and “Pilate,” therefore, put such a robe on Jesus. The Jewish kings wore a “white” robe, which was often rendered very shining or gorgeous by much tinsel or silver interwoven. Josephus says that the robe which Agrippa wore was so bright with silver that when the sun shone on it, it so dazzled the eyes that it was difficult to look on it. The Jews and Romans, therefore, decked him in the manner appropriate to their own country, for purposes of mockery. All this was unlawful and malicious, as there was not the least evidence of his guilt.’ (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)

Luke 23:18 And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas:

19 (Who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.)

20 Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them.

21 But they cried, saying, Crucify him, crucify him.

22 And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go.

23 And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed.

24 And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required.

25 And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will.

‘Thus the Jewish rulers demanded the release of a notorious villain, who had really been guilty of the crime whereof they had falsely accused Jesus; had made an insurrection with some accomplices; and had also committed murder in the insurrection, a crime which, though their impudence exceeded all bounds, they durst not lay to Christ’s charge. For this infamous creature the people likewise begged life, preferring him to the Son of God, who had always made it his whole study to do them good!’ (Benson Commentary)

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“Pilate’s capitulation to the chief priests of the Jews is a classic example of caving in to the curse of respectability, notwithstanding his wife’s warning and his own personal discernment that Jesus was a just man without fault. The washing of his hands after delivering the Savior to the mob is an example of what President Marion G. Romney describes as ‘serving the Lord in such a way as not to offend the devil.'” (Spencer J Condie, Your Agency, Handle with Care [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 42.)

John 18:37 Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

“As He began to feel the awful weight of the approaching Atonement, Jesus acknowledged, ‘For this cause came I into the world’ (John 18:37). We too, brothers and sisters, came ‘into the world’ to pass through our particularized portions of the mortal experience. Even though our experiences do not even begin to approach our Master’s, nevertheless, to undergo this mortal experience is why we too are here! Purposefully pursuing this ’cause’ brings ultimate meaning to our mortal lives. And we are greatly helped if we enter with faith that pavilion of perspective-the plan of salvation. Then the search for meaning is ended.” (Neal A Maxwell, “Apply the Atoning Blood of Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 1997, 22)

Jesus is scourged and crucified.

Luke 23:34 ¶Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.

35 And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.

36 And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar,

37 And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself.

38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

39 ¶And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.

‘To respond in a Christlike way cannot be scripted or based on a formula. The Savior responded differently in every situation. When He was confronted by wicked King Herod, He remained silent. When He stood before Pilate, He bore a simple and powerful testimony of His divinity and purpose. Facing the moneychangers who were defiling the temple, He exercised His divine responsibility to preserve and protect that which was sacred. Lifted up upon a cross, He uttered the incomparable Christian response: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Some people mistakenly think responses such as silence, meekness, forgiveness, and bearing humble testimony are passive or weak. But to “love [our] enemies, bless them that curse [us], do good to them that hate [us], and pray for them which despitefully use [us], and persecute [us]” (Matthew 5:44) takes faith, strength, and, most of all, Christian courage.

The Prophet Joseph Smith demonstrated this courage throughout his life. Though he “suffer[ed] severe persecution at the hands of all classes of men, both religious and irreligious” (Joseph Smith—History 1:27), he did not retaliate or give in to hatred. Like all true disciples of Christ, he stood with the Savior by loving others in a tolerant and compassionate way. That is Christian courage.

When we do not retaliate—when we turn the other cheek and resist feelings of anger—we too stand with the Savior. We show forth His love, which is the only power that can subdue the adversary and answer our accusers without accusing them in return. That is not weakness. That is Christian courage.’ (Robert D Hales, General Conference, October 2008)

‘They triumph over him as if they had conquered him, at the time that he was conquering sin and death for them! They challenge him to save himself from the cross, when he was saving others by the cross!’ (Benson Commentary)

Luke 23:43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.

“Today there is much controversy and contention among the doctrines and philosophies of men relative to the requirements for entrance into the kingdom of God. Many have been deceived by the teachings of men that works and obedience to God’s commandments are not essential, and some base their contention on scriptures. For example, Paul said, ‘For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.’ (Eph. 2:8-9.)

“The resurrection and immortality are gifts from God, through Jesus Christ, and not from the works and efforts of mortal men.

“Many try to justify their claims with the statement of Jesus to the thief on the cross, when the thief said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom,’ and Jesus said unto him, ‘Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.’ (Luke 23:42-43.) Jesus and the thief went to paradise. There are those who teach that paradise and heaven are one and the same place, but this is not according to the teachings of the holy scriptures.

“After mortal death the spirit goes to paradise and remains there until the appointed time for its resurrection into immortality and eternal life.

“Heaven, which is the kingdom of God, is where those who have been obedient to God’s plan of life and salvation go after judgment and the resurrection.

“The spirit of Jesus, after his death, went to paradise and not to the kingdom of heaven. It was not until after his resurrection that he mentioned returning to the kingdom of heaven. You will recall his words to Mary as she stood by the sepulcher weeping: ‘Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.’ (John 20:17.) His spirit had been to paradise, but he had not yet ascended to his Father in heaven.” (Bernard P Brockbank, “Entrance into the Kingdom of God,” Ensign, Jan. 1973, 44)

John 19:26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!

27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

‘He now sees standing by the cross her who. by His death will be left without son as well as without husband, for the silence of the history can only be accounted for on the supposition that Joseph was already dead; and in the tenderness of His love He commits her to the care of him whom He Himself had loved beyond others’ (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)

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Matthew 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

“Is it possible that the Heavenly Father had really forsaken him? Could God have abandoned him in this most sacred and terrible hour? Yes, indeed. For Christ had become guilty of the sins of the world, guilty in our place. What happens to the rest of us when we are guilty of sin? The Spirit of God withdraws from us, the heavens turn to brass, and we are left alone to stew in our guilt until we repent. In Gethsemane the best among us vicariously became the worst among us and suffered the very depths of hell. And as one who was guilty, the Savior experienced for the first time in his life the loss of the Spirit of God and of communion with his Father.” (Stephen E. Robinson, Believing Christ: The Parable of the Bicycle and Other Good News, 119.)

John 19: 28 ¶After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.

‘To a doctor of medicine, this is a very meaningful expression. Doctors know that when a patient goes into shock because of blood loss, invariably that patient—if still conscious—with parched and shriveled lips cries for water.’ (Russell M Nelson, General Conference, October 1996)

John 19: 30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

‘It is finished – The sufferings and agonies in redeeming man are over. The work long contemplated, long promised, long expected by prophets and saints, is done. The toils in the ministry, the persecutions and mockeries, and the pangs of the garden and the cross, are ended, and man is redeemed. What a wonderful declaration was this! How full of consolation to man! And how should this dying declaration of the Saviour reach every heart and affect every soul!’ (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)

Luke 23:46 ¶And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

“Jesus the Christ was dead. His life had not been taken from Him except as He had willed to permit. Sweet and welcome as would have been the relief of death in any of the earlier stages of His suffering from Gethsemane to the cross, He lived until all things were accomplished as had been appointed. In the latter days the voice of the Lord Jesus… ‘For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.’ (DC 18:11)” (James E Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 613)

Posted in Leadership

Reproving with love

Whether as parents, leaders or friends, there will be times when we need to correct others. We can do it with love……..

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…. or we can do it unrighteously.

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A great scripture on reproof is D&C 121:43

Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved’ lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;

I want to look at the meanings of some of the key words in this scripture.

Reprove

Reprove means ‘to criticize or correct, especially gently’ (Dictionary.com)

Kent P Jackson and Robert D Hunt suggest in their article ‘Reprove, Betimes, and Sharpness in the Vocabulary of Joseph Smith’ that Joseph used the word to mean ‘to correct’.

When we reprove we admonish, counsel or correct. We should not berate, scold or criticise. Whenever possible, reproof should be preceded by preliminary prayer.

Sometimes reproof, or chastening, is the only way to bring about happiness and obedience. Brigham Young said:

‘At times I may to many of the brethren appear to be severe. I sometimes chasten them; but it is because I wish them to so live that the power of God, like a flame of fire, will dwell within them and be round about them. These are my feelings and desires.’

Betimes

Jackson and Hunt say:

‘The Oxford English Dictionary provides some illustrative definitions, including “at an early time,” “in good time, in due time, while there is yet time, before it is too late.” In the early nineteenth century, the word was generally understood to mean “seasonably,” “in good season or time,” and “soon,” as noted in Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary.’

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I take from this that we should reprove promptly, before it is too late. We should give corrective feedback early in a situation rather than delaying until the problem gets worse.

Sharpness

According to Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, ‘sharpness’ means ‘acuteness of intellect, the power of nice discernment, quickness of understanding.’ This seems to mean that ‘with sharpness’ does not mean that we speak harshly or severely but that we have to have a ‘sharp’ mind when we reprove. Elder Neal A Maxwell suggested that sharpness means ‘with keen perception, exactly, minutely’ and that reproof should be ‘specific’.

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I like to think of sharpness in terms of a scalpel. We use reproof as precisely as a surgeon uses a scalpel to cut away only that which needs to be removed for the  health of the patient.

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I think that sharpness also means that we don’t waffle – get to the point and be honest with the individual.

Elder Spencer J Condie indicated that the intensity of the reproof should also be appropriate to the cause. He wrote:

‘When Joseph Smith rebuked the guards in Liberty Jail, the intensity of his rebuke was justified by the filthy language of the his guards, who had profaned the sacred name of two divine beings. The same was true of the Saviour’s expelling the money changers from the holy temple; their blasphemy and sacrilege evoked an instant response. However, a four-year-old Primary child with muddy feet deserves more long-suffering and gentleness.’

Moved upon by the Holy Ghost

Robert L Millet and Lloyd D Newell suggested these indicators that will help us know when we have been moved upon by the Holy Ghost;

Moved upon by the Holy Ghost

Moved upon ​by Other

1. The reprove is love motivated. 1. The reprove is anger motivated.
2. The reproof is necessary. 2. The reproof may be unnecessary.
3. Showing love after the reproof is natural and easy. 3. Attempts at showing love after the reproof are difficult and labored.
4. Teaching moments occur during the expression of love. 4. Bitterness often prevents teaching during the expressing of love.
5. The reproof is person centered (“save soul”) 5. The reproof is reprove centered (“save face”).
6. The bond of love is strengthened between individuals. 6. The bond of love is weakened between individuals.

An increase of love

We should follow our reproof with an increase of love. This love should not be feigned. It should come promptly and  not after hours or days of the ‘cold shoulder’. This reassurance should be repeated often.

The phrase ‘increase of love’ implies that there was a certain quantity of love there in the first place. President Henry B Eyring said:

‘Before they receive your correction, they must have felt of your love early and steadily. They must have felt your genuine praise before they will accept your correction.’

The Book of Mormon tells us how we can get that love:

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen. (Moroni 7:48)

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I have found the following 4-step model a useful mental framework that can be used in lots of situations to correct ‘with sharpness’

1. I like

2. I don’t like

3. What I want

4. If/then (Consequence – can be positive or negative)

Here is an  example that my Pearl Among Women used recently when training FSY Assistant Coordinators:

1. I like the fact that you want your youth to have an exciting time

2. What I don’t like is that you tried to achieve that by letting of fireworks in the  halls of residence

3. What I want you to do is get your youth back into their rooms with lights out as soon as possible

4. If you do this, I will help you clean up the mess.

Posted in Gospel Doctrine 2015

Gospel Doctrine 2015 – Lesson 25 – “Not My Will, But Thine, Be Done”

The story of Gethsemane unfolds as the Saviour and his apostles share the traditional Passover or seder meal still observed today by Jews all over the world. At a certain point, the Saviour transforms the Passover meal into the sacrament.

As the meal came to its conclusion, Jesus and the apostles then sang a hymn. Psalms 113-118 – tremendously Messianic in nature. The hymn is called the Hallel, which means “praise” and is composed of verses from Psalm 133 to Psalm 118.  The root of our word “hallelujah” comes from that word for praise – “hallel.”

The Saviour then offered some final discourses recorded in John 13-17. John Chapter 17 includes the intercessory prayer or the great high priestly prayer.

We pick up the narrative in John chapter 18.

In the darkness of the evening, Jesus and his apostles walked beyond the city wall; down some long, narrow steps; and into the Kidron Valley which divides Mount Zion from the Mount of Olives.

Ancient steps to the garden of Gethsemane

John 18:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.

2 And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples.

 It would appear that Jesus often went to the garden with his disciples. Judas, therefore, knew the place and probably knew that he would find them there.

 Mark 14:32 – And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray.

Mark provides a name for the garden.

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“In Hebrew the word Geth [gath] means ‘press,’ and semane [shemen] means ‘oil’ or ‘richness.’ Gethsemane therefore means ‘the press of oil’ or the ‘press of richness.’ This refers to the huge presses for olives or grapes that were used to squeeze the oil or wine out of the pulp and that would be appropriately found in an olive grove like Gethsemane. Olives or grapes were put into the presses and squeezed until their juices flowed out of them.

What an appropriate name for the Garden where Jesus took upon himself the infinite weight of the sins and sorrows of the world and was pressed with that tremendous load until the blood flowed through his skin. (See Luke 22:44; D&C 19:18.) Just as olives and grapes are squeezed in the press, so Jesus, the true vine (see John 15:1), was squeezed in Gethsemane, ‘the press,’ until his richness, his juice, his oil, his blood, was shed for humanity. No wonder that the wine of the Last Supper and of the Christian sacrament is such a fitting symbol for the blood of Christ-they are obtained by the same process.” (Stephen E. Robinson, Believing Christ: The Parable of the Bicycle and Other Good News, 119)

Mark 14:33 – And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be asore amazed, and to be very heavy;

What makes the Saviour start to be very heavy? The weight of sin.

“There is no weight heavier than the burden of sin, and the Sinless One…began to sense and feel the bitterness of this singular occasion, a time when the weight of the world was about to be placed upon the shoulders of Him who had made the world.” (Robert L. Millet, eds., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 5: The Gospels [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1986], 431.)

The Joseph Smith Translation corrects the text to ‘the disciples began to be sore amazed’. However, Jesus was perfect and He had never felt the effects of sin before. Now he knows it in practice.  Elder Neal A Maxwell noted that the physical suffering “was so much worse than the keenest of intellects could have imagined.”

Through the Book of Mormon we know that the atonement was not just for sins

Alma 7:11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and  afflictions and  temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

“Elder Neal A. Maxwell gave this insight into the relationship between the Atonement and the Savior’s succoring powers: ‘His empathy and capacity to succor us-in our own sickness, temptations, or sins-were demonstrated and perfected in the process of the great atonement.’ He also said, ‘The marvelous atonement brought about not only immortality but also the final perfection of Jesus’ empathetic and helping capacity.'”

“…No mortal can cry out, ‘he does not understand my plight for my trials are unique.’ There is nothing outside the scope of the Savior’s experience. As Elder Maxwell observed, ‘None of us can tell Christ anything about depression.’ As a result of his mortal experience, culminating in the Atonement, the Savior knows understands, and feels every human condition, every human woe, and every human loss. He can comfort as no other. He can lift burdens as no other. He can listen as no other.” (Tad Callister, Infinite Atonement, pp. 207-9)

The Saviour bore these burdens not only for this world but for all the worlds he created – worlds without number. All of those worlds come under the umbrella of the atonement.

Mark 14:34 And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.

35 And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.

36 – And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; atake away this bcup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.

 ‘The cumulative weight of all mortal sins—past, present, and future—pressed upon that perfect, sinless, and sensitive Soul! All our infirmities and sicknesses were somehow, too, a part of the awful arithmetic of the Atonement’. Neal A Maxwell, General Conference, April 1985)

“Elder Orson F. Whitney, a young missionary in the eastern states, says that one night in a vision:

“‘I seemed to be in the Garden of Gethsemane, a witness of the Savior’s agony. I saw Him as plainly as ever I have seen anyone. Standing behind a tree in the foreground, I beheld Jesus, with Peter, James and John, as they came through a little wicket gate at my right. Leaving the three Apostles there, after telling them to kneel and pray, the Son of God passed over to the other side, where He also knelt and prayed. It was the same prayer with which all Bible readers are familiar: ‘Oh my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.’

“‘As He prayed the tears streamed down his face, which was toward me. I was so moved at the sight that I also wept, out of pure sympathy. My whole heart went out to him; I loved him with all my soul, and longed to be with him as I longed for nothing else.

“‘Presently He arose and walked to where those Apostles were kneeling-fast asleep! He shook them gently, awoke them, and in a tone of tender reproach, untinctured by the least show of anger or impatience, asked them plaintively if they could not watch with him one hour. There He was, with the awful weight of the world’s sins upon his shoulders, with the pangs of every man, woman and child shooting through his sensitive soul-and they could not watch with him one poor hour!'” (Ivan J. Barrett, “He Lives! For We Saw Him,” Ensign, Aug. 1975, 20-21)

Luke 22:41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,

42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.

44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

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Heavenly Father couldn’t take the experience from him because then there would have been no atonement and worlds without number would have been lost.

2 Nephi 9:9 And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself;

What causes the bleeding from every pore? Haematidrosis is a very rare disorder in which the patient sweats blood and/or blood pigments, usually resulting from extreme physical and/or mental stress.

Neil A Maxwell: All the cumulative weight of our sins–the whole human family–fell upon him. He, and he alone, bore them! Thus he is able to say, “I have overcome and have trodden the wine-press alone, even the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God” (D&C 76:107; 88:106). This would include all the penalties that a God who cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance would require (see D&C 1:31). Could there be any wrath more fierce than divine wrath? Especially as Jesus encountered cumulative, mortal grossness including the vilest of all human sins? Jesus bore them.

Why did the Saviour go through what he did?

D&C 18:10 Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;

11 For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.

12 And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance.

13 And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!

14 Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people.

All that the fall of Adam made wrong, the atonement put right.

‘Climbing is a unique sport, presenting mental and physical stress that you learn to overcome by operating close to your limits. Sometimes your limits are higher than you realize. “Of course, you recognize your limits in climbing by falling off the rock,” says Alan Czenkusch [leader of Whistepig Climbing School of Del Norte, Colorado]. “However, you’re safe because you’re on belay.” The belay anchor system is the crux of climbing. It allows falls with impunity – almost. The person running the rope does so to protect the climber. There is a great responsibility and obligation to this concept and Czenkusch explains it solemnly. The belayer protects himself by the use of pitons and other devices which give him fail-safe redundant protection. When the belayer calls out to the climber below “On Belay” it means he is set up correctly and has assumed a serious duty and would even give up his own life to protect the climber. Such dedication should allow the person below to ascent with no fear of falling. The mutual trust which allows belaying is part of the camaraderie, the intimacy, the mystique of mountaineering. Belaying has brought Czenkusch his best and worst moments in climbing. Czenkusch once fell from a high precipice, yanking out three mechanical supports and pulling his belayer off a ledge. He was stopped upside down 10 feet from the ground when his spread-eagled belayer arrested the fall with the strength of his outstretched arms. “Don saved my life,” says Czenkusch. “How do you respond to a guy like that? Give him a used climbing rope for a Christmas present? No, you remember him. You always remember him.” (Eric G. Anderson, “The Vertical Wilderness,” Private Practice, Nov. 1979, p. 21.)

Posted in Gospel Doctrine 2015

Gospel Doctrine 2015 – Lesson 24 – “This Is Life Eternal”

Jesus promises his apostles that they shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

John 16:1 These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.

2 They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.

3 And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.

4 But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.

5 But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou?

6 But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.

One by one, the apostles were killed as they went out to preach the gospel in foreign lands. At first, successor apostles were chosen such as Matthias (Acts 1:22), James (Acts 12:7; Galatians 1:19), Barnabas (Acts 14:14), and Paul (Acts 14:14; Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 4:9; 1 Corinthians 9:1).

Peter, Philip, Andrew, Jude, Bartholomew, and Simon were crucified;

  • James the son of Zebedee was beheaded;
  • Matthew was slain by a spear and a battle-axe;
  • James the son of Alphaeus was beaten and stoned by the Jews;
  • Matthias was stoned and then beheaded;
  • Thomas was thrust through with a spear.

While the exact dates of death are not known in many cases, it is believed that with the exception of John, all met their deaths well before the end of the first century.

John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.

“…in the New Testament, the full powers and gifts of the Holy Ghost were not given in the Old World meridian Church until the day of Pentecost…While the Bridegroom was present with his disciples in the flesh, he was their Comforter, their Revelator, their Testator. He was their Life and Light, their source of power and might. ‘Hence, as long as Jesus was with the disciples in person, there was not the full need for them to have the constant companionship of the Spirit that there would be after Jesus left.’ But because of the vital role that Spirit would play thereafter in the growth, development, and expansion of the early Christian Church, Jesus said: ‘It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you’ (John 16:7).” (Selected Writings of Robert L. Millet: Gospel Scholars Series [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2000], 194.)

John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

“The Holy Ghost, then, is the Spirit of truth; therefore, those who are worthy to possess it will be guided into all truth, which truth is the word of God. The Holy Ghost will not abide with the unrighteous, the insincere, or the wicked person. It is a gift from God, most valuable to those who enjoy its companionship and powers. Said Moroni, a Nephite prophet: “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moro. 10:5).

Without the Holy Ghost one lives in spiritual darkness, blind to truth, unbelieving of heart, and apostate in feelings and teachings.

The Holy Ghost is also a comforter; it has the power to give peace to the soul of the righteous.

The Holy Ghost is the spirit of prophecy. The Apostle Peter, speaking of the more sure word of prophecy, admonished all to take heed, “knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

“For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1:20-21).

If prophets speak by the power of the Holy Ghost, then the Holy Ghost is required to interpret correctly the teachings of holy men. Therefore, those who do not possess the Spirit of God cannot comprehend the things of God (1 Cor. 2:11).

The Holy Ghost is a revelator. Jesus, speaking of the Holy Ghost, promised his disciples: “. . . and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13).” (Delbert L Stapley, General Conference, October 1966)

Jesus foretells his death and resurrection

John 16: 16 A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.

A little while – His death would occur in a short time. It took place the next day.

Ye shall not see me – That is, he would be concealed from their view in the tomb.

And again a little while – After three days he would rise again and appear to their view.

17 Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father?

18 They said therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while? we cannot tell what he saith.

19 Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye inquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me?

20 Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.

“Shall be turned into joy – You will not only rejoice at my resurrection, but even my death, now the object of so much grief to you, will be to you a source of unspeakable joy. It will procure for you peace and pardon in this life, and eternal joy in the world to come. Thus their greatest apparent calamity would be to them, finally, the source of their highest comfort; and though then they could not see how it could be, yet if they had known the whole case they would have seen that they might rejoice. As it was, they were to be consoled by the assurance of the Saviour that it would be for their good. And thus, in our afflictions, if we could see the whole case, we should rejoice. As it is, when they appear dark and mysterious, we may trust in the promise of God that they will be for our welfare. We may also remark here that the apparent triumphs of the wicked, though they may produce grief at present in the minds of Christians, will be yet overruled for good. Their joy shall be turned into mourning, and the mourning of Christians into joy; and wicked men may be doing the very thing – as they were in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus – that shall yet be made the means of promoting the glory of God and the good of his people, Psalm 76:10.” (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)

Jesus offers the great intercessory prayer

“I have always thought this one of the grandest and most remarkable prayers ever uttered, that we have any record of. No doubt the Son of God offered many prayers not in the power of mortal pen to record. But this prayer was recorded, and it has come down to us. It is a prayer that is full of meaning, and one that should be especially dear to the Latter-day Saints, because the blessings that the Savior prayed for on this occasion are the blessings that we need. We would not be worthy of the name of Saints if we did not receive the answer to this prayer in ourselves. The servants of that have received the Priesthood, unless they received the fulfilment of this prayer and exemplified it in their lives, would not be in truth His disciples.” (Collected Discourses, 5 vols. [Burbank, Calif., and Woodland Hills, Ut.: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987-1992], vol. 4, George Q. Cannon, April 7, 1895)

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John 17:1 These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:

2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.

“This was Jesus’ appointed hour-the hour for which he came into the world; the hour when he would take upon himself the sins of the world. For this purpose was he born; for this purpose had he lived. And because he would accomplish the appointed purpose, he would soon rise in immortal glory-for which glory he now prayed.” (Bruce R McConkie, The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979-1981], 4: 107.)

John 17:3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

“Our quest for eternal life is nothing other than a quest to understand who God is and for us to return to live with Him.” (Christoffel Golden Jr, General Conference, April 2013)

John 17:4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.

5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.

A clear statement that Jesus had a premortal existence.

6 I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.

7 Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.

8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.

“In his prayer Jesus made it perfectly clear that the eleven disciples knew him to be the Son of God. He had taught them who he was and that he had been sent from his Father. That they had received a witness in their hearts and souls to the truth of his teachings is made clear in the following statement by John: (quotes John 17:1-2, 6-8.).

“By receiving the Savior’s message and accepting him for what he was and is, the Apostles obtained eternal life.

“This knowledge of ‘the only true God, and Jesus Christ’ (John 17:3) is the most important knowledge in the universe; it is the knowledge without which the Prophet Joseph Smith said no man could be saved. The lack of it is the ignorance referred to in the revelation wherein it is written: ‘It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.’ (D&C 131:6.)” (Marion G Romney, “Except a Man Be Born Again,”Ensign, Nov. 1981, 14)

John 17:9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.

“The meaning of this expression here seems to be this: Jesus is praying for his disciples. As a reason why God should bless them, he says that they were not of the world; that they had been taken out of the world; that they belonged unto God. The petition was not offered for wicked, perverse, rebellious men, but for those who were the friends of God and were disposed to receive his favors.” (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)

John 17:14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.

16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

“If we are living the religion which the Lord has revealed and which we have received, we do not belong to the world. We should have no part in all its foolishness. We should not partake of its sins and its errors-errors of philosophy and errors of doctrine, errors in regard to government, or whatever those errors may be-we have no part in it.

“The only part we have is the keeping of the commandments of God. That is all, being true to every covenant and every obligation that we have entered into and taken upon ourselves…If I sometimes, and once in a while I do, go to a football game or a baseball game or some other place of amusement, invariably I will be surrounded by men and women who are puffing on cigarettes or cigars or dirty pipes. It gets very annoying, and I get a little disturbed. I will turn to Sister Smith, and I will say something to her, and she will say, ‘Well, now, you know what you have taught me. You are in their world. This is their world.’ And that sort of brings me back to my senses. Yes, we are in their world, but we do not have to be of it.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report, April 1952, Afternoon Meeting 28.)

John 17: 21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

“It is the principle of unity that has enabled the wards, stakes, branches, and missions of the Church to progress and to accomplish the purposes for which the Church was established. It could not have been done by dissension and hatred. There have been difficulties. Each member of the Church has his own ideas. Sometimes they are not the same as those of the bishopric, and not the same as those of the presidency of the stake, and not the same as the Presidency of the Church; but each has had to submerge his own ideas to the good of the whole, and in that united purpose we have achieved something that is wonderful.”(David O. McKay, General Conference, October 1967)

Posted in Inspirational

Spiritual lessons from the Six Day War

In June 1967 the state of Israel, less than 20 years old and with a population of just over 2 million, found itself surrounded by Arab nations with a population of over 102 million intent on destroying it. For the 19 years of its existence, Israel had been surrounded by militarily superior nations who refused to recognise its right to exist.

On 1 June 1967 the Iraqi President Abdar-Rahman Aref said:

‘The existence of Israel is a mistake that must be rectified. The clear aim is to wipe Israel off the map.’

The situation seemed hopeless but what ensued was probably the most stunning victory in military history as the tiny state of Israel, standing alone in the world, defeated the assembled might of its enemies in only six days.

Like the Israelis, Latter-day Saints may, at times, feel that they are surrounded by enemies. When we consider that a third of the host of heaven followed Satan in the War in Heaven and that that War continues on the earth today, we know that the enemy arrayed against us is numerous and powerful. However, we have great confidence that the Lord’s kingdom will come off victorious. Elder Dallin H Oakes has said:

‘We are surrounded by challenges on all sides. But with faith in God, we trust the blessings He has promised those who keep His commandments. We have faith in the future, and we are preparing for that future.’ (Preparation for the Second Coming, General Conference, April 2004)

In this blog, I summarise some of the key events in the Six Day War and draw some lessons from the Israeli victory that may help Latter-day Saints in the spiritual battles that we face on a daily basis.

Please note that I do not set out to make any statements or draw any conclusions about the current political situation in the Middle East.

The build up to war

‘By virtue of our natural and intrinsic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, we hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, which shall be known as the state of Israel.’ (David Ben Gurion, leader of the Jewish community in Palestine, 14 May 1948)

Zionism (the movement to create a Jewish state in Palestine) emerged in central and eastern Europe in the late 19th century , at a time when the area was controlled, and mismanaged, by the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire.

In 1917, in an attempt to tip the balance of power in the World War by enlisting the support of Jews world-wide (but particularly in the United States), the British government issued the Balfour Declaration:

‘His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object.’ (The Times, 9 November 1917)

After World War 1, Great Britain was given a mandate over the area having seized it from the Ottomans during the war. However, Britain was also dependent on the Arab countries for oil and imposed a virtual ban on Jewish immigration into Palestine. After World War II British forces in Palestine faced escalating violence from Zionist organisations fighting for the right to a homeland. In the face of this opposition and bloody conflict between Jew and Arab, Britain decided to hand the problem over to the United Nations.

United Nations Resolution 181(II) was a plan to partition Palestine into Independent Arab and Jewish States and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem. On 29 November 1947, the resolution was put to a vote in the United Nations General Assembly. The result was 33 to 13 in favour of the resolution, with 10 abstentions.

David Ben Gurion formed a provisional government and Egypt responded immediately with air raids. The British troops left the next day and the Arab armies attacked. As a result of a series of conflicts and truces over the next couple of months the Israelis gained significantly more territory than had been set out in the UN partition plan but, crucially, lost control of Old Jerusalem to King Abdullah of Jordan’s Arab Legion.

Ben Gurion

For years there was tension between Israel and its neighbours which was punctuated by border skirmishes and terrorist atrocities. In 1966 there had been particularly intense Arab terrorist action against Israel and in 1967 Israel attacked Syrian artillery which was shelling Israeli farmers in Galilee. As part of this action they took down six Syrian fighter planes.

Egypt began to take an increasingly war-like stance towards Israel, making threats through Radio Cairo that it was going to drive the Jews into the sea. Israel feared that an Arab-Israeli war was inevitable.

In May 1967, the UN secretary-general, U Thant, withdrew the UN’s peacekeeping forces from the Suez at the request of Egypt’s leader General Nasser. As the Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban said to the United Nation’s General Council:

‘What is the use of a fire brigade which vanishes from the scene as soon as the first smoke and flames appear?’

By May 26, 1967 Colonel Nasser had 80,000 troops, 1,000 tanks and 200 war planes massed along the Egypt/Israel border in Sinai. On 30 May King Hussein of Jordan unexpectedly signed a defence agreement with President Nasser. The Israelis had believed that Jordan would stay out of any war with Israel. This alliance between Egypt and Jordan represented a ramping up of the threat against Israel; the distance from the Jordanian controlled areas of Jerusalem to the Mediterranean coast was a mere ten miles – the risk was that an Arab attack could immediately cut Israel in two. This would have been catastrophic for the Israelis.

And so, the scene was set for war.

David and Goliath

‘ The armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are stationed on the borders of Israel…Behind them stand the armies of Iraq, Kuwait, Sudan and the whole of the Arab nation…The Arabs are ready for the fray. The hour of decision has arrived.’ (Gamel Abded Nasser, President of Egypt, 30 May 1967)

In this completely uneven confrontation the Israel’s forces were completely outnumbered by those of its opponents. Israel had an army of  50-60,000 but only 10-12,000 of these were full time soldiers, the rest were National Service men. The Arab nations had a combined army of 575,000.

For a number of years Israel had had difficulty buying weapons. In the 1950s she had bought arms from France but that supply had dried up when De Gaulle came to power. Israel largely stood alone on the world stage. Meanwhile the Soviet Union was supplying huge amounts of military hardware to the Arab nations. At the outbreak of the war Israel had 800 tanks while the Arab nations had 2,504; Israel had 300 combat aircraft, the Arabs 957; the Israeli Navy had 8 vessels (including 1 submarine which was unable to submerge), the Egyptian Navy had 81 vessels.

The Israeli General Tal said:

‘We knew that we would be fighting forces whose equipment was superior both in quality and quantity to our own. For its size the Egyptian Army is probably the richest in the world, after the US Army.’

We too are in a war. A war that has been going on since the premortal existence. Then it was called the War in Heaven. Then the battleground moved to this earth. We too may feel that we are surrounded by enemies.  When we consider that a third of the host of heaven followed Satan in the War in Heaven and that that War continues on the earth today, we know that the enemy arrayed against us is numerous and powerful. I believe that we can draw some lessons from the Israeli victory in the Six Day War that may help us in the spiritual battles that we face.

How did Israel pull off this amazing victory?

In May 1967 the Israelis had an army of 50-60000 men but they were able to put into the field an army of 264,000 composed of farmers, greengrocers, taxi drivers and business men. 4 out of 5 of the army in the 6 day war were actually civilians.

In October 2012 the Church had a front line army of 58,000 full time missionaries – by December 2014 this had increased to over 85,000. But the Lord needs all of us to be enlisted, be we farmer, green grocer, taxi driver or business man, till the conflict is over. We call this every member a missionary.

The Lord has declared that missionary work is the responsibility of every member: ‘Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbour’ (D&C 88:81)”

Henry B. Eyring said:

That command and warning of danger was given to those called as missionaries at the start of the Restoration. But the duty to warn our neighbor falls on all of us who have accepted the covenant of baptism. We are to talk with nonmember friends and relatives about the gospel. Our purpose is to invite them to be taught by the full-time missionaries who are called and set apart to teach…

 The Israelis also used women in the front line as radio operators, intelligence staff and as nurses. General Yoffe commander of one of the Israeli divisions in the Sinai said

‘When the men see the women enduring the same heat, flies, discomfort and exhaustion that they are, it spurs them to battle on and endure the sufferings and deprivations of war with even greater determination.’

President Monson’s 2012 announcement has led to a noticeable increase in the number of sister missionaries.

The mood in Israel before the 6 day war was one of cool confidence. They knew that they were outnumbered in troops; they knew that they were outnumbered in quantity and quality of equipment. Nevertheless they never had any doubt of the outcome.

Elder Dallin H Oakes spoke of the confidence that Latter-day Saints feel in knowing that they are on the Lord’s side:

 “We are surrounded by challenges on all sides. But with faith in God, we trust the blessings He has promised those who keep His commandments. We have faith in the future, and we are preparing for that future. To borrow a metaphor from the familiar word of athletic competitions, we do not know when this game will end, and we do not know the final score, but we do know that when the game finally ends, our team wins. We will continue to go forward til the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the great Jehovah shall say “The work is done”.”

First strike

‘Fly on, attack the enemy, pursue him to ruination, draw his fangs, scatter him in the wilderness, so that the people of Israel may live in peace in our land and the future generation be secured.’ (Battle order issued to the Israeli Air Force by Brigadier-General Mordechai Hod)

Early in the morning of 5 June 1967 Israel went to war and the Israeli Air Force effectively won the war within the first 80 minutes when they destroyed over 300 Egyptian planes and gained control of the sky.

For 80 minutes without let up the Israeli Air Force pounded the Egyptian air fields. Then after a 10 minute break, there followed a further 80 minutes of Israeli air strikes. In these two hours and 50 minutes the Israelis destroyed the offensive potential of the Egyptian Air Force and effectively broke its back as a fighting force.

So swift and decisive was the Israeli strike that President Nasser of Egypt could not believe that Israel had the capability to do what it had done:

‘The enemy attacked at one go all the military and civil airfields in the United Arab Republic. This meant he was relying on something more than his normal strength to protect his skies from any retaliation from us… It can be said without fear of exaggeration that the enemy was operating an air force three times its normal strength.’

This was not by chance. 16 years planning had gone into those initial 80 minutes. General Hod, the head of the Israeli Air Force said

‘We lived with the plan, we slept on the plan, we ate the plan. Constantly we perfected it.’

We too have a plan that guarantees victory – the plan of salvation. This is a plan that was set out before the foundation of the world, a plan that is perfect and will perfect us, a plan that we all signed up to in the premortal existence. Part of that plan is that we would come here to the earth in the last days when the battle is fiercest and the need for heroes is great and we would build the kingdom of God. Through the Abrahamic covenant we have covenanted that we will share the gospel with our fellow man.

The battle for air supremacy won, the focus of the war turned to a desert battle. The Israeli troops had arrived at the desert in tanks, trucks, buses, milk wagons, delivery vans, laundry vans, ice cream vans. Israeli children had been told to cover them with mud to camouflage them and make them look a little military. However, the mud fell off in the baking sun and the motley array of vehicles entered the war in their work a day colours. An Israeli Air Force Colonel who was in charge of the air strikes against ground forces in Sinai said afterwards:

‘We did not make many mistakes in identifying our own vehicles from the air. Whenever we saw an ice cream wagon, a hot dog van or milk trucks, we knew they could only be ours’

This exemplifies that the Arab forces weren’t just fighting the Israeli army – they were fighting the whole Israeli people.

Ein brera

Perhaps the Israeli’s greatest strength was that they knew what they were fighting for. Every one realized that defeat for Israel would mean the end of her existence as a state and the annihilation of her people. Golda Meir called this their secret weapon Ein brera – no alternative.

We know that we shall be victorious through the atonement of Jesus Christ. The atonement of Jesus Christ is the plan – it is the gospel – there is no alternative. Jacob tells us what would have become of us without the Saviour’s victory over sin:

2 Nephi 9:9 And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself; yea, to that being who beguiled our first parents, who transformeth himself nigh unto an angel of light, and stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness.

10 O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit.

Their country not a battlefield

Another factor was that because of the small size of Israel, the Israelis knew that they could not afford to let their own country be the battlefield.

Our wards should not be a battlefield where member contends against member or is critical of leadership. We must be united and strong. We must make sure that our homes are strong that we don’t let enemy forces in the form of inappropriate films, books, newspapers and music in. We also need to keep our hearts and minds clean and pure.

Inspirational leaders

Because the majority of Israel’s army were civilians, Israel could not maintain a constant state of readiness for war without being economically crippled. Nor could she stand the army down and send them back to the factories, offices and fields. At this time of crisis, the Israeli public demanded that the government bring back the military hero General Moshe Dayan who had commanded Israel’s forces during the 1956 Suez crisis. They had confidence that he would make the correct decision whether to fight or wait.

We have confidence in our leaders. Each year, at General Conference, Stake Conference and Ward Conference we get the opportunity to express that confidence as we sustain them and commit ourselves to follow and support the.

It was the custom of the Israeli tank commanders to fight with their turrets open. This was, obviously, a dangerous tactic but it meant that the commanders had a clear view of the battle. In the same spirit, officers had a tradition of leading their men into battle with a shout of Aharai! (After me!)

Michael B Oren writes:

‘Highly informal – saluting and marching were rare – the IDF (Israeli Defence Force) placed its emphasis on speed, improvisation, and a flexibility of command in which even junior officers could make on-the-spot, far-reaching decisions.’

One of the distinctive features of the church is its leadership structure. Local leaders are given the authority to administer their stewardships without constantly referring back to Salt Lake City. They receive the revelation and inspiration that they need to fulfil their assignments. And with no lay clergy, our leaders, both men and women, are truly at the front line and leading by example.

Conclusion

We need to ensure that we participate in the victory promised by Elder Oakes by doing the things that our leaders ask of us. In the words of modern revelation:

“Be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33).

In the gospel of John we read that at the tomb of Lazarus Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Take ye away the stone!’ Before the act of raising Lazarus could be performed, the disciples had their part to do. Christ could have removed the stone with a word. It would have been very easy for him to have commanded it to roll away; and it would have obeyed his voice, as the dead Lazarus did when he called him back to life. But the Lord wanted the disciples to be a part of the raising of Lazarus. The disciples had not only to take away the stone; but after Christ had raised Lazarus they had to ‘loose him, and let him go.’

It is the same with the gospel. God could easily win the war without our help but that is not his way. He wants to use us in the work.